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Drugs Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Knowledge as an “Antidote" to the Opioid Crisis

By Staff Editor
Apr 12, 2017 - 9:57:20 AM

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( - The numbers are staggering. More than 2.5 million adults in the United States are struggling with addiction to opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 33,000 deaths in 2015—nearly as many as traffic fatalities—and, tragically, nearly all of them preventable.

To help fight the growing epidemic, Harvard Medical School has launched OpioidX: The Opioid Crisis in America, a free comprehensive educational program on opioids designed for clinicians and lay audiences alike.

The course is available to people worldwide and provides actionable information to anyone interested in or struggling with opioid misuse or addiction.

“No one should be dying from an overdose because we have things we can do in the setting of an overdose to save someone's life,” said Sarah Wakeman, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in her introduction to the course. “We have treatment that we know reduces the death toll and helps people get into long-term remission to lead meaningful lives.”

The course is designed to provide a well-rounded, evidence-based view of the opioid crisis, and to challenge misconceptions about addiction with the goal of reducing the stigma around opioid addiction, treatment and recovery.

Emphasis is placed on practical knowledge, such as ways to prevent an opioid overdose death, and how to get involved on community level to help people gain access to life-saving medications for prevention and treatment. For example, learners are taught the signs of opioid overdose and how to administer naloxone, a medication which can rapidly halt the physiological cascade of reactions that occurs during an overdose.

The course features a narrative-focused, video-based curriculum led by a broad range of experts, including HMS addiction specialists and public health and policy experts, as well as perspectives from HMS-affiliated hospital pharmacists, law enforcement agents and individuals in recovery from opioid addiction. Discussion forums, moderated by HMS medical students, provide additional channels for learners to share personal insights and experiences with each other.

The course has already garnered national attention. At the Clinton Foundation’s sixth annual Health Matters Activation Summit on April 10, former president Bill Clinton announced that OpioidX will play a role in the foundation’s efforts to identify and implement strategies that create healthier communities, invest in health equity and address the opioid and prescription drug epidemic.

OpioidX is being leveraged to empower human resource professionals to address opioid addiction and dependency in the workplace. The goal is to provide tools, resources and evidence-based best practices to assist employees dealing with addiction.

Drug Free Duval in Northeast Florida is using OpioidX to create a blueprint on how to provide comprehensive prevention, treatment and recovery services for that community. The implementation of OpioidX in outreach programs is a major part of the initiative.

OpioidX also includes a verified certificate program that can provide continuing education credits to professionals who work in human resources. The application process for continuing education credit approval through several additional professional organizations is currently underway.

For health care professionals working in opioid addiction and treatment, including physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other health care providers, the HMS Global Academy offers continuing medical education credits through a free, three-course program called the Opioid Use Disorder Education Program.

Developed by HMS with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this program provides courses on understanding the nature of addiction, identifying and treating opioid use disorder, and implementing collaborative care approaches to manage opioid use disorder. Each class provides eight CME credits.

To learn more about courses offered through HMS, visit:


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