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Program Offers New Way to Fight Against Opioid Use Disorders

New research presented at the 2022 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting evaluated program to help address the opioid epidemic.

“The opioid epidemic has raged on despite the development of evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorders,” explained Kimberly Hu, MD, at the 2022 American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting. “About 70% of the nearly 71,000 drug overdose deaths in 8 states involved opioids. That's a huge, staggering number.”

Recognizing the role that insufficient access to medications plays in this epidemic, Hu and colleagues at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, designed and implemented an opioid use disorder (OUD) curriculum for third-year medical students. The students (n=405) were provided with in-person or virtual buprenorphine waiver training and in-person clinical experiences between January 2019 and April 2021. Pre- and post-intervention tests,along with self-reported clinical management surveys,assessedthe students’ability to screen patients with OUD and manage acute and chronic pain. Paired sample t-tests were estimated to assess improvement in knowledge and approach to clinical management principles.

Hu, a resident at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and colleagues found a statistically significant increase in both their knowledge as seen in the pre- and post-test scores as well as their self-reported understanding of management principles. A follow-up study at the end of the year also provided positive feedback. Hu reported: “83% [of the participants] said that they felt they knew how to manage acute pain, about 62% felt that they knew how to manage chronic pain, and about 77% said that they knew how to screen the patient for opioid use disorder.” This is important no matter which specialty the students pursue, as these students will be able to “link patients with resources early and make sure that there aren’t patients slipping through the cracks,” Hu explained.

She noted that educating third-year medical students gives them—and their future patients—an advantage. “They're a little over halfway through medical school, and then they'll go into residency in a number of different specialties. So giving them this knowledge early helps them to incorporate [the information and skills] as they continue their training.”

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Hu noted that the educational program is ongoing and supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Her study co-authors included Julie Niedermier, MD; Amanda Start, PhD;Casia Horseman, MD; and Julie Teater, MD.

“If we can educate the next generation physicians and increase access to care, this is one way we can combat the opioid crisis,” Hu concluded.

This article originally appeared on Psychiatric Times.


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