The Fentanyl Epidemic and How the Healthcare Industry Can Help

Updated on January 20, 2023

With drug overdose death rates on the rise, the healthcare industry must get involved. Anything that can be done to curb this epidemic should be taken into serious consideration.

When it comes to the fentanyl epidemic, there are several ways that the healthcare industry could step in to help. It won’t happen overnight, but any progress is better than none at all. Here are a handful of ways that the healthcare industry can help reverse the course of the fentanyl epidemic, and in turn save lives. 

1. Increased access

The healthcare industry can help by increasing access to fentanyl abuse treatment and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). And not only increasing access but making sure that patients are aware of what’s available to them.

Think about it like this. If you don’t know that fentanyl abuse treatment is available, there’s no way to take advantage of it. Healthcare providers must do their part in sharing the resources that are available to patients. 

2. Education and training

Providing education and training for healthcare providers on the appropriate prescribing of opioids can also help to reduce the risk of addiction and overdose. Additionally, expanding access to naloxone, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, can save lives.

Healthcare providers must understand the finer details of opioid use. A lack of knowledge could lead them to prescribe the wrong drug to the wrong person. And when that happens, there’s a much greater chance of an addiction forming.

3. Coordination with others

It is also important for healthcare systems and providers to work closely with public health officials, law enforcement agencies, and community organizations to develop and implement comprehensive, coordinated strategies to address the opioid epidemic.

The fentanyl epidemic isn’t something that’s going away on its own. It’ll take a coordinated effort to make a positive impact. 

Healthcare providers carry the burden

In many ways, healthcare providers are the first line of defense against fentanyl abuse and addiction. Before prescribing any potentially addictive medication, healthcare providers should screen the patient for addiction risk. Providers should also monitor patients who are prescribed opioids for signs of addiction and take appropriate action if they are at risk of developing an addiction.

One of the biggest mistakes is when healthcare providers assume that patients are using prescribed medication as intended. They forget to carefully monitor their patients, which puts their health and well-being in a compromising position. 

If there’s any concern about addiction, here are some of the many questions healthcare providers can ask:

  • Have you been using more fentanyl than you intended to or for longer than you intended to?
  • Have you been unable to cut down or stop using fentanyl despite your best efforts?
  • Have you spent a lot of time using fentanyl or recovering from its effects?
  • Have you given up or reduced important activities in your life because of your use of fentanyl?
  • Have you continued to use fentanyl despite knowing it is causing problems in your life?
  • Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, muscle pain, or insomnia when you try to stop using fentanyl?
  • Have you had to use more fentanyl to get the same effects as before?
  • Have you been using fentanyl in dangerous situations, such as while driving or operating heavy machinery?
  • Have you continued to use fentanyl despite physical or mental health problems that have been caused or worsened by the drug?
  • Have you lost consciousness or nearly lost consciousness as a result of using fentanyl?

The healthcare industry is in a unique position to help stop the fentanyl epidemic. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking patients these types of questions to better understand how they’re using the drug and if they require professional addiction assistance. 

Final thoughts

There’s no denying the seriousness of the fentanyl epidemic. In 2020 alone, the fentanyl category of opioids accounted for 53,480 preventable deaths. This number is climbing by the year and doesn’t even consider all of those who have been injured as a result of use. 

While there’s still a lot of work to be done, it’s a silver lining that the healthcare industry has opportunities to step in and provide help. Just the same as alcohol treatment, some steps can be taken to assist those who are struggling with an addiction. 

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