AAFP President Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., discuss how his office and the nation's family physicians can collaborate on efforts to "Turn the Tide" on the nation's opioid crisis.
Every 18 minutes, someone in the United States dies from a prescription drug or heroin overdose. And although this epidemic has devastated communities and cost thousands of lives, it is still only poorly understood by health care professionals and the public.
Family physicians can do their part to address the opioid abuse crisis by tailoring their prescribing practices to reduce the supply of misused opioids while still treating pain safely and effectively. To help, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., has launched a national campaign called Turn the Tide Rx(turnthetiderx.org) that is based on the concept of "prescribers talking to prescribers."
This effort is designed to educate and mobilize prescribers to take immediate action to stem the opioid epidemic, provide patients with information to protect themselves and their families from opioid misuse and overdose, learn from communities around the country that are finding creative ways to tackle the epidemic, and change the cultural perceptions about addiction so that it is not seen as a moral failing but a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion.
- U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A., has launched a national campaign called Turn the Tide Rx that is based on the concept of "prescribers talking to prescribers."
- The TurnTheTideRx.org website offers practical tools and resources for physicians, as well as anecdotes about physicians' experiences treating their patients with pain.
- The campaign also includes a national tour of communities hit by the opioid epidemic -- with visits to treatment facilities, grand rounds with health care professionals and town halls with community members -- and a letter Murthy plans to send to more than 2 million opioid prescribers in late August.
Turn the Tide Rx is composed of three elements:
- the TurnTheTideRx.org website that offers practical tools and resources for physicians, as well as anecdotes about physicians' experiences treating their patients with pain;
- a national tour(turnthetiderx.org) of communities hit by the opioid epidemic during which Murthy is visiting treatment facilities, performing grand rounds with health care professionals and conducting town halls with community members; and
- a letter Murthy plans to send in late August to more than 2 million opioid prescribers, urging them to improve prescribing practices, inform patients about the risks of opioid addiction and connect patients who have opioid use disorders to evidence-based treatment. The letter will also contain a pocket card for opioid prescribing, based on recent opioid prescribing guidance(www.cdc.gov) from the CDC.
The TurnTheTideRx.org website launched Aug. 8 as a digital platform with resources for physicians and their patients.
Among physician resources(turnthetiderx.org) on the site is a pain treatment toolbox that features nonpharmacologic and nonopioid therapies for use in patients with chronic pain who aren't receiving active cancer treatment, palliative care or end-of-life care.
Resources for physicians also include a checklist and pocket card that were adapted from the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain(www.cdc.gov) that offer long-term therapy considerations. In addition, there is information on assessing patients who use opioids, opioid dosing, opioid use disorder and overdose risk, and overdose prevention.
Family physicians can direct patients to resources on the site that are designed for them, such as information on commonly prescribed opioids and images of those medications, a handout on the risks of addiction and overdose, information about side effects associated with these drugs, and step-by-step directions for taking opioids that minimize the chances of becoming addicted or overdosing. The patient section also includes links to safe storage and disposal information, as well as the phone number for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's treatment help line: 800-662-HELP .
An innovative approach the website uses is to share stories from physician colleagues who offer ideas on dealing with topics such as tapering patients off opioids(turnthetiderx.org); the art of prescribing these drugs(turnthetiderx.org); alternatives to opioid treatment(turnthetiderx.org); and using empathy, not shame(turnthetiderx.org), with opioid abusers.
Finally, TurnTheTideRx.org asks physicians to take a pledge(turnthetiderx.org) to educate themselves on how to treat pain safely and effectively, screen patients for opioid use disorder, and provide or connect them with evidence-based treatment. Also key is to talk about and treat addiction as a chronic illness, not a moral failing.
AAFP Opioid Resources
In addition, the Academy continues to regularly update its own resources on pain management and opioid abuse. These assets include AAFP policies and papers on substance abuse and opioids and pain management, related CME opportunities, Academy journal articles on these topics, and the latest related AAFP News coverage.
The AAFP also offers a comprehensive, members-only chronic pain management toolkit that includes practice-based tools that can be used to assess patients' opioid risk and create a plan to help treat them.
Related AAFP News Coverage
AAFP Fights Proposed Reporting for Opioid Use Disorder Care