Michigan Association of Health Plans

Opioids: 4 ways to reduce harm, overdose and death

This story is from University of Michigan Health. Read more here.

The epidemic of substance use disorder continues to ravage the United States – as nearly 108,000 Americans died due to overdose in 2021, according provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 40 million Americans over 12 years old reportedly needed treatment for a substance use disorder in 2020, yet only 2.7 million people received treatment at a specialty facility, a national survey shows.

While overdose deaths climb, there are changes in the drug supply that have made it increasingly unpredictable, says Chin Hwa (Gina) Dahlem, Ph.D., FNP-C, FAANP, a nurse practitioner and overdose prevention expert at University of Michigan Health.

“We don’t know what other substances are mixed with the drug itself or if multiple drugs are used at the time of overdose,” Dahlem said. “Thus, as fentanyl is found in majority of the overdoses, it is vital that people who use drugs and their social networks are given the training and access to overdose prevention resources.”

While curbing the scourge of opioids is a massive undertaking requiring action from governments, health care providers, industry leaders, and communities, there are viable steps to make improvements now. Here, three providers with expertise in substance use care discuss ways to reduce harm, overdose and death due to opioid and illicit drug use.

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