Treating Opioid Use Through Collaborative Care and Education
By Brooke Lipman
Pharmacists can serve as the first line of defense in the opioid use crisis. We educate patients about the safe use of opioids as well as partner with prescribers. Our common goal is ensuring our patients receive safe and effective treatment.
I am part of an interdisciplinary pain management team. I receive referrals from other clinicians for patients with suspected aberrant medication-related behaviours.
In one recent case, a patient reported to his occupational therapist that he was taking 10 Tylenol #3’s per day. I met with the patient and gathered more information. Through open communication, he revealed it was more than 10 tablets. He was up to 17 Tylenol #3’s per day.
Tapering Opioid Use
I was able to develop a trusting, therapeutic relationship with the patient. The patient felt comfortable enough to share. As a result, I learned they had been obtaining opioids from multiple sources (including doctors and illicit sources). In addition, the patient disclosed a personal and family history of substance use disorder. The use of motivational interviewing allowed me to better understand the patient’s own motivations. The door was therefore open to providing education on why change is important. Above all, we were able to work on setting the goal of tapering their opioids. I provided resources to the patient on harm reduction strategies and collaborated with their family doctor on a treatment and monitoring plan.
I encourage all pharmacists and pharmacy students to learn how to identify patients who may be struggling with opioid use disorder. It is most important that we work collaboratively with patients and other health care providers to improve patient outcomes.
Visit The Canadian Society of Hosptial Pharmacists (CSHP) website to learn more about advocacy for addressing opioid use and ultimately, resolving the opioid crisis.