Oregon Press Release

UW Medicine

Media Contact:
Kim Blakeley
UW Medicine/ Strategic Marketing & Communications
206.685.1323/ krb13@uw.edu

Oregon’s risk of painkiller misuse and abuse on the rise

Oregon ranks #1 in the U.S. for the non-medical use of opioids

September 16, 2014

Oregon ranks number 1 in the U.S. for the non-medical use of opioids—an illegal and often risky and potentially lethal use of painkiller medications, according to the most recent data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).* The high rate of opioid use in Oregon is part of a nationwide trend over the last two decades.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that out of the nearly 17,000 prescription drug deaths in the U.S., 532 deaths were in Oregon. In recent years, prescription drug abuse has been on the rise in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Idaho. Western states now show among the highest rates of painkiller abuse, according to the NSDUH data released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The rising rates of opioid abuse, overdose and death have led the CDC and the White House to call this an opioid epidemic.

From physicians to registered nurses to physician assistants and psychologists, healthcare providers face the challenging situation of managing patients with chronic pain. Challenges range from under-treatment due to lack of access and insurance coverage for behavioral treatments, to over-treatment with opioids through high-dose prescribing which can contribute to painkiller abuse. Often there is tension between healthcare providers and their patients when trying to discuss how best to treat chronic pain.

As part of a national effort to curb the opioid public health epidemic, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, for extended-release and long-acting opioids, and called for continuing medical education in this area. The UW’s COPE (Collaborative Opioid Prescribing Education) for REMS was one of the first free CME courses to meet this challenge. The multimedia UW course is fully REMS-compliant and is designed to improve knowledge and competence at managing chronic pain so that interactions between the prescriber and patient can be done collaboratively for better patient outcomes. It is one of the few online courses related to chronic pain that uses video vignettes as a teaching tool and allows prescribers to complete the course at their own pace.

“The statistics for Oregon—as well as other states in the West which show high rates of painkiller abuse—only underscore what we’ve been aware of, that there is a strong need for better pain education among providers. The COPE-REMS program is an excellent option for providers who are wrestling with these issues which are common in treatment of chronic pain,” said Melissa Weimer, DO, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), who collaborates with the COPE-REMS Training Program. “The challenge is to inform prescribers that this CME program exists, that it’s free, and that it can empower clinicians to more effectively manage their patients’ chronic pain.”

Among other partners in the COPE-REMS Training Program managed by the UW are primary care associations; namely, Northwest Regional Primary Care Association (NWRPCA); CHAMPS: Community Health Association of Mountain/Plains States; and the Western Clinicians Network (WCN). Academic partners include Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and University of California at Davis, in partnership with the healthcare education company, PlatformQ Health, Inc. UW TelePain, a program that provides case consultations about chronic pain, is also supported through this new grant program, while the UW’s Training Xchange unit provides technical and other logistical support to the COPE team which is housed in the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. For more information about COPE-REMS visit www.COPEREMS.org.