Opioid use and misuse have become a complex public health crisis affecting United States life expectancy rates. And you can step up to be a leader in the face of this. Yes, you.
Nearly 2.4 million individuals in the United States have opioid use disorder (OUD). Ohio ranks second in U.S. opioid-related deaths. Opioids affect brain function; as consistent dosing increases, the brain increases the need and desire for more. Federal, state, and local governments are working to combat the crisis, but it takes significant leadership to drive the message home.
Leadership, at the national level, means providing a concerted, national approach to opioids. Policies related to opioid prescribing have been successful in beginning to reduce opioid dependence and fatal and non-fatal overdose.
Research funding has been provided through the National Institutes of Health – Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL), providing more than $500 million in 2019 to combat the crisis. The Ohio State University multidisciplinary team, in concert with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services — along with numerous Ohio academic universities, led by Drs. Rebecca Jackson (Ohio State) and Theresa Winhusen (University of Cincinnati), were successful in receiving a large grant to reduce opioid deaths in Ohio.
But there is more to leadership in the opioid crisis that research and policy — a grassroots leadership approach is necessary to help those in need.
It is said that ‘in every crisis lies the seed of opportunity,’ and as leaders we need to plant this seed. Leaders can be those in academia, our school systems, our communities and our families. Leadership in the opioid crisis means we all need to recognize symptoms, know where there is access to care and be supportive for consistent treatment.
Consider these general signs of substance use — noting that these are general signs and should not be considered a complete list:
- Difficulties at school and declining grades
- Poor performance and chronic lateness
- Changes in physical appearance, such as inappropriate clothing and a lack of interest in grooming
- Altered behavior, such as an increased desire for privacy
- Drastic changes in relationships
- Changes in appetite, such as a decreased appetite and associated weight loss
We all are encouraged to be leaders to beat this crisis. The National Academies of Medicine released a special publication — First, Do No Harm — encouraging clinician leadership to combat the opioid epidemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services provides a tool kit for community leadership. Ohio State provides faculty and student education related to substance use. This valuable information can help save a life. Clinicians from the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center with prescriptive authority are encouraged to obtain an education permitting them to prescribe medication-assisted therapy used to treat drug use.
You are a leader and the time is now!