We're Tackling The Opioid Crisis Head-On

Opioid addiction is a national crisis—one that Fairview Health Services and University of Minnesota Physicians are tackling head-on.

Opioid Crisis
Fairview physicians Katie Nixdorf, MD, and Greg Amer, MD share important information about the opioid crisis.

“To really get a sense of the severity of the problem, I encourage everyone to watch ‘Chasing The Dragon,’” says Greg Amer, MD, a Fairview physician who specializes in addiction medicine. “It illustrates the hold opioids have on those who suffer with addiction; it’s a far stronger hold than many other addictive substances. Opioids cause a dopamine spike and resultant crash, which leads to an ongoing cycle of high then crash. The addiction continues and progresses."

To further illustrate the importance and criticality of the problem, consider these points provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
  • From 2000-2015 more than 500,000 people died from drug overdoses.
  • Since 1999, the number of overdoses from prescription opioids and heroin have quadrupled.
We, along with all other health care organizations, play a role in the crisis.

“Within our system, thousands of opioid prescriptions are written per year," says Katie Nixdorf, MD, Fairview. "While many of the prescriptions were necessary, some may not have been and could have been misused by the person they were prescribed to or someone in the same household.” 

Our approach

“The fact is, this crisis is multi-faceted and we could take many different approaches, but we have to start somewhere," says Katie. "Prescribing behaviors, for example, are one component of the larger problem and it’s an area that we as health care providers can more easily influence. So, that’s where we’ll start, while being mindful not to negatively affect patient care.” More specifically, Fairview will focus our efforts on acute pain management—because the probability of long-term opioid use increases most sharply in the first days of therapy—in the following settings:

  • Post-operatively
  • Primary care
  • Emergency departments and urgent care
The strategies include any combination of activities in the following categories:
  • Improved education, training and communication for providers and patients
  • Standardization of prescribing protocols and related policies · Improved use of data from internal sources and through Minnesota’s Prescription Monitoring Program to inform decision-making
  • Creation of methods to properly dispose of unused prescription medications
Fairview will continue to work hard in tackling this growing crisis.

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