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Risk Profiling Could be the Key to Preventing Opioid Abuse

Risk Profiling Could be the Key to Preventing Opioid Abuse


Author: Shernide De;va

The opioid abuse epidemic has become so critical that researchers are coming up with ways to identify  those most likely to abuse medications. Areas such as social dynamics and family history are examined to identify those who are the most likely to abuse pain medication.

Patients undergoing rehabilitation for physical injuries and their physician will finally have a tool that will allow them to identify who is at risk for abusing opioids by reviewing areas such as family history, lifestyle, and environment for critical cues about susceptibility to addiction. Opioids are often the most effective treatment available for patients. That’s why opioids will continue to be prescribed despite a patient’s risk profile.

However, Risk assessments are one of the few tools available to manage debilitating pain during physical rehabilitation, said Richard T. Jermyn, DO, FAAPMR, who chairs the physical medicine and rehabilitation department at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine

“No one sets out to become an addict, but abuse rates among pain patients mirror the general population, where we find about seven percent are dependent on illicit drugs. As an osteopathic physician, I seek to prevent issues like addiction by partnering with patients to help us both understand if they are susceptible to prescription drug abuse,” said Dr. Jermyn, who focuses on acute and chronic pain management.

On October 17-21, Dr. Jermyn will present sample protocols used at the Neuromusculoskeletal Institute at the annual medical conference for osteopathic physicians (DOs) held in in Stratford, New Jersey.

Guides such as the Opioid Risk tool offer a method to monitor key indicators for susceptibility to addiction.

Key Indicators of Addiction Vulnerability Include:

  • Age 16-45 years
  • Family history of substance abuse, including alcohol, medication and illicit drugs
  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • History of preadolescence sexual abuse
  • Personality factors, including ADD, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression
  • Family dynamics
  • Social factors
  • Sample Physician and At-Risk Patient Opiate Agreement

Now that physicians have a way of determining who is at risk for developing addiction, they can offer an agreement to patients that are susceptible that includes stringent volunteering monitoring to ensure opioids are used responsibly. The agreement would include the following:

  • Physician is the sole prescriber of the medication
  • Patient agrees not to sell, trade, give or receive opioids
  • Patient agrees to urine/serum drug tests
  • Patient’s opioid pills are counted at each visit
  • Patient agrees not accelerate the dose or they will be without the medication

“By working together, at risk-patients and their physicians can avert the threat of addiction or abuse during the rehabilitation period,” Jermyn said. “Patients who are unlikely to abuse medication are often those most afraid to take it, while at-risk patients often don’t recognize that they are vulnerable.”

Having a system to identify patients who are prone to becoming addicted to pain killers is a step in the right direction in preventing the prescription painkiller epidemic. Clinicians will now have a structure way of assessing patients to identify if they are at risk for developing an addiction to substances. Opioid is affecting everyone, it does not discriminate, so tackling this epidemic is critical.

Prescription painkillers can be safe when taken according to your doctors instructions and when carefully monitored however it’s important to recognize that there is a serious risk of addiction. Dependency is a disease that can reveal itself to even the most cautious individuals.  So even if you feel you are not prone to addiction, you should take extra precautions to avoid the debilitating effects substance dependency can have on your life.

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