Collaborative primary care can help with opioid addiction

The opioid crisis in America is being officially declared a public health emergency by President Trump. A New York Times study found that deaths from drug overdose exceeded 59,000 in 2016 and that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in Americans under the age of 50. The Times says that “all evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017.”

There are many possible solutions to the opioid crisis, among which is the ability of primary care physicians to collaborate with other providers to help patients with opioid addiction.

There have been a number of studies pointing to the need for collaboration for effective opioid addiction treatment. Research is also being conducted on the addiction and treatment methods. A group of researchers at the University of Michigan believe that “many of the two million Americans addicted to opioids can receive treatment and assistance in getting off prescription painkillers or heroin from a primary care team.”

The researchers state that a collaborative team-based approach, along with the use of medication assisted therapy (MAT), can have a significant impact on the rate of opioid addiction in the US. Primary care physicians must be trained and certified in the administration of buprenorphine, a medication that has been proven to help those addicted to opioids.

Although primary care physicians are understandably overwhelmed already, taking those few extra steps to collaborate with other physicians may prove to make the difference in helping patients with opioid addiction. In fact, research has found that “patients had the highest chance of successful opioid addiction treatment when their primary care physician worked with a team of non-physicians to deliver MAT.”

The University of Michigan researchers believe that primary care physicians can make a huge difference in the opioid crisis, working in a “collaborative team-based intervention [that] typically includes physicians, nurses, medical assistants, social workers, and pharmacists.”