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Expert says education, identification key to battling opioid crisis

Marwan Elbliety

On the heels of the news announced Thursday that seven Erie County residents fatally overdosed on a deadly batch of heroin in the span of 24 hours, a national expert on opioid addiction was in Buffalo Friday to talk with healthcare workers about the growing epidemic.Based on the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, it’s estimated that 91 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose. About half of the deaths come from prescribed opioids while the rest are a result of heroin abuse.  

Opioids are one of the most commonly prescribed chronic pain medications. In 2012, more than 250 million opioid prescriptions were written.

National Opioid Abuse Expert and Associate professor in the School of Nursing at University of Pennsylvania Dr. Peggy Compton visited the University at Buffalo on Friday to talk with medical experts on substance use disorders.

“Since 2010, the number of heroin deaths in this country has quadrupled. Prescription opioids are now the second most commonly abused illicit drug in this country, behind marijuana, and it is also the drug most secondly identified as people having a true addiction or substance use disorder for,” Compton said.

Dr. Compton says one key is knowing how to identify someone suffering from a substance use disorder.

“The behaviors that we see consistent with a substance use disorder are the inability to control use or cut down on use, severe craving for the drug when unavailable, compulsion, and the fact that individuals stops doing other things. Their number one behavior is seeking drugs, using drugs, or under the effect of withdrawal from drugs,” Compton said.

Compton believes many physicians and nurse practitioners have not received adequate training in how to prescribe opioids, saying it is estimated that the average medical student gets less than one hour of education in addiction.