Wednesday, May 29, 2024

7 Strategies for Nurses to Combat the Opioid Crisis

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The opioid has left no corner of the United States untouched. It continues to be a devastating public health issue. Nurses are at the forefront to prevent addiction and care for those struggling with this menace. According to 2023 statistics, 1.6 million Americans had an opioid use disorder, with 10.1 million people having misused opioid prescription in the previous years.

Maine is one of the severely hit states reporting over 636 overdose deaths, equivalent to 15.9 per 100,000 residents or 8.9% above the national average. Being a nurse in Maine or any other state in the USA, you can combat this crisis using the following strategies.  

1. Educate Patients and Communities 

You can play a pivotal role by educating patients about the inherent risks of using opioids. Inform them about the potential for addiction, the signs of dependency, and the serious consequences of misuse. You can also guide your patients on safe medication practices, such as:

  • Adhering to prescribed dosages
  • Not sharing medications
  • Properly storing opioids
  • Proper disposing of opioids to prevent unauthorized access

In addition, you can introduce and encourage your patients to use alternative pain management strategies like physical therapy, acupuncture, non-opioid medications, and mindfulness techniques effective in reducing reliance on opioids.

2. Use Prescription Monitoring Programs

Prescription monitoring programs (PMPs) are invaluable tools for tracking patients' prescription histories. As a nurse, you should:

  • Check the PMP before prescribing: Ensure your patients aren’t receiving opioids from multiple sources, which can signal misuse.
  • Monitor ongoing prescriptions: Regularly review PMP data to detect patterns of potential abuse or dependency.
  • Educate patients about PMPs: Make sure patients know that their prescription history is monitored to protect their health and safety.

3. Provide Access to Naloxone 

Naloxone is an important medication that’s used to treat opioid overdose. Ensure you and your co-workers know how to administer it correctly. Emphasize on the availability of oral wire naloxone for management by prior high-risk patients and their relatives. Teach the patients how to use it in the event of an emergency which may include saving the lives of other people. 

4. Advocate for Alternative Pain Management 

Encourage and support the use of non-opioid pain management strategies. Non-pharmacological treatments like physical therapy, acupuncture, and cognitive behavioral therapy can also work. Explain these choices to your patients and work with other medical professionals to develop multi-faceted pain strategies where opioids are not the primary focus. 

5. Support Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) 

Medication-assisted treatment is a treatment process that involves the use of medications, counseling, and behavioral therapies to address opioid use disorders. MAT is an effective treatment process in which patients can benefit from your support and educational help as a nurse. Encourage patients to use MAT and collaborate with the healthcare providers to enhance the effectiveness of this treatment process.  

6. Promote Safe Disposal of Medications 

Inform your patients about the importance of disposing of unused or expired medications properly. Provide information on local drug take-back programs and safe disposal methods. Proper disposal reduces the availability of unused opioids, decreasing the risk of misuse by others. 

7. Engage in Continuing Education 

The landscape of the opioid crisis is constantly evolving, with new treatments, guidelines, and policies emerging regularly. Stay informed about the latest developments by attending workshops, participating in continuing education courses, and joining professional organizations. By keeping your knowledge up-to-date, you can provide the best possible care for your patients. 


As you navigate the complexities of being a nurse in Maine, remember that your efforts are making a difference. By implementing these strategies, you can help reduce the impact of the opioid crisis and improve the lives of your patients. Your dedication, compassion, and expertise are essential in the fight against this epidemic.

Amy Wilson is a passionate health writer dedicated to making complex medical topics accessible and engaging and covers a wide range of topics from nutrition and fitness to mental health and wellness.

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