Bill and I are traveling in the northeast this week. The leaves are turning and it’s just beautiful as we start our journey in New York, heading to Maine with our camper in tow.
I had a small medical problem that required me to go to an urgent care in Poughkeepsie, New York. As I entered the waiting room, I heard the TV in the corner making an announcement about opioids. The first part informed the patients that waited with me about opioids, stating that there were alternatives to opioids, including acetaminophen, aspirin, exercise, therapy, etc. The next visual informed us of the addictive qualities of opioids. The final one stated the importance of discussing options with your physician and informing physicians of personal and family history of addiction.
I was impressed with the thoroughness of the messaging. Soon, I was called in to the examining room and on the back of the door was this message:
Our message in Heartbroken – Grief and Hope Inside the Opioid Crisis, the book my co-authors, Diana Cuddeback, Director Heartlinks Grief Center and Matthew Ellis, MPE based at Washington University, and I, recently released in a poster!
I was surprised to see, succinctly, the message it took my co-authors and me months to form and that we’ve been working hard to get out:
“addiction can happen to anyone, any family, at any time”
And the message that it took us more months to figure out how to turn into actions:
“there is HOPE”
Hope that the stigma associated with addiction, that keeps so many from seeking treatment, can be reduced, hopefully eliminated. Hope that all those with the disease of addiction can seek and obtain treatment. Hope that the prevention efforts that many across the county are working so hard on will help to keep our youth from the journey of addiction.
The website on the poster, combatheroin.ny.gov, provides information through a series of videos about substance use disorder and addiction, including:
o Medical Assisted Treatment programs and Open Access Centers in New York
o Where to find treatment, and open beds right now (via the HOPELine)
o Drug Trends – including the danger of fentanyl
o “Reversing the Stigma” video on work done in NY to combat addiction
The State of New York is serious about stopping the opioid epidemic. I learned this messaging is in all the physician offices across the state. The state is pouring money into efforts to increase awareness of how addictive opioids are and the importance of discussing available alternatives with your physician. As we drove around the state, we saw billboards, too.
New York was also one of the first states to develop a system to track opioid prescriptions in 2013, with a system they call I-STOP. It requires doctors to register and track prescriptions when writing a new opioid prescription. New York also has a law that limits initial prescriptions of opioids to seven days. This law, along with one that requires a minor to have a consultation with a parent/guardian informing them of the addictive properties of opioids and taking a family history of addiction before prescribing, are essential for curbing opioid availability and potential addiction in our youth.
These two laws are not on the books for many states, including Illinois (although we do have a PDMP Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, like New York’s I-STOP.)
Getting these laws enacted in every state can help to stem the opioid crisis in the United States. It is time to get these laws passed.
It is time for HOPE not just in NY, but everywhere!