Overdose deaths in the U.S. involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety-one Americans die daily from an opioid overdose and more than 1,000 are treated daily in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.

In 2016, Virginia declared the opioid addiction crisis a state public health emergency.

At VCU and VCU Health, efforts are underway to combat this public health crisis — through addiction treatment, pain management, health care policy, education and research. The below news articles, videos and continuing education opportunities provide a snapshot of those efforts.

 VCU News opioid series

 VCU Health Facebook Live opioid series

 Continuing medical education

VCU News opioid series

VCU to lead clinical trial assessing preventive treatment for patients recovering from opioid overdose
VCU announced that it is leading a clinical trial to test SUBLOCADE™ (buprenorphine extended-release) injection for subcutaneous use (CIII), a once-monthly injectable formulation of buprenorphine for the treatment of moderate-to-severe opioid use disorder. The VCU-led clinical trial will test innovative methods to prevent repeat opioid overdose by recruiting patients into treatment immediately after they recover from an overdose.

To end the opioid epidemic, VCU health sciences faculty are changing the way pain management is taught
In the School of Medicine, changes mean explaining new CDC guidelines, discussing opioid alternatives and guiding students on how to adjust patient expectations. Students also go through a simulation exercise where they must revive a patient who has overdosed on opioids. “We want students to leave with the idea that chronic pain should be managed primarily with non-opioid medications, which has not been the way of thinking in recent history.”

Opioid guidelines, snakebite victims: For VCU residents and fellows, research is revealing
Medical residents and fellows are applying scientific research to reveal inefficiencies in opioid prescribing guidelines, assess standard practices for hospitalizing snakebite victims and evaluate appropriate social media conduct among medical professionals.

VCU graduate students use data, medicine and real-world experience to tackle the opioid epidemic
VCU graduate students across disciplines are studying how to combat the physical, psychological and societal impacts of opioid abuse. During the 21st annual Graduate Research Symposium in April, students shared multiple methods for addressing the opioid epidemic, such as improving emergency medical response, and determining the degree to which stress and adversity impact substance abuse.

VCU researchers combat opiate addiction
Researchers are fighting the opioid epidemic by brainstorming more effective clinical approaches, elucidating the biological mechanisms of addiction and developing safer alternatives for pain relief.

VCU Health outpatient clinic treats addiction with compassion and medication
Cathy Wilson greets the diverse group of patients she sees every week with the same line: “If it were easy, I’d tell you to go home and stop using. But it’s not that easy and that’s why we’re here to help you.”

VCU Health Pain Resource Nurse Program adopts ‘never just opioids’ approach for treatment
At VCU Health, nurses are studying alternative pain methods, and being taught how to address varied pain levels, responsibly. In 2013, VCU Health began its Pain Resource Nurse Program, an effort to improve care for those with pain and teach multi-modal treatment of acute/chronic cancer and non-cancer pain and addiction.

VCU to lead evaluation of new state-sponsored substance abuse treatment program
The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services has selected VCU to lead a five-year evaluation of the state’s new Addiction Recovery Treatment Services program. A major statewide initiative that started in April, the ARTS program is intended to address the rise of opioid-related deaths in Virginia by enhancing Medicaid-sponsored substance use disorder treatment services.

Study: Women who fixate on chronic pain more likely to be prescribed opioids
Female chronic pain sufferers who negatively fixate on their symptoms report greater pain intensity and are more likely to have an opioid prescription than men with the same condition, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and led by current VCU medical student Yasamin Sharifzadeh.

VCU Health obstetrical program treats new and soon-to-be moms with addiction
Quite a few things make Tavara Webb happy these days: seeing her 6-month-old baby girl develop day by day; being part of her teenagers’ lives; buying a car; and hearing the words, “your urine is clean.” It’s been almost a year since the Richmond resident has heard otherwise. Webb is part of the VCU Health Obstetrical Addiction Program that treats new and soon-to-be moms with drug addictions, particularly opioid addictions.

‘Dreamland’ author Sam Quinones: Opioid epidemic is ‘a nightmare for American families’
Sam Quinones describes speaking dates to talk about his book “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” as a sad map reflecting the breadth of territory where the opioid crisis has made its mark.

Heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses kill at least two Virginians every day, VCU reports
Nearly 80 percent of the almost 1,000 fatal drug overdoses in Virginia in 2014 involved prescription painkillers or heroin, known as opioids, according to a new policy brief by researchers at VCU School of Medicine.

VCU Health Facebook Live opioid series

VCU Health hosted Facebook Live interviews with institutional experts to highlight efforts underway at the health system and VCU aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. Viewers were invited to participate by submitting questions and comments during the interviews. Interviews broadcasted live at facebook.com/vcuhealth.

• VCU School of Medicine professor F. Gerard Moeller, M.D., discusses medical school curriculum changesrelated to opioid prescribing practices.

• VCU School of Dentistry professor Omar Abubaker, D.M.D., Ph.D., discusses his commitment to learning about the disease that took his son’s life and the educational initiatives at the dentistry and nursing schools that are related to opioid prescribing practices and addiction treatment.

• VCU School of Medicine assistant clinical professor Jenny Fox, M.D., discusses efforts to combat and treat neonatal abstinence syndrome at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

• VCU professor of medicine and health administration Alan Dow, M.D., discusses continuing medical education initiatives hosted at VCU that are aimed at aligning opioid prescription practices throughout the commonwealth with new state and national guidelines.

• VCU School of Medicine professor Mishka Terplan, M.D., discusses the addiction recovery services offered at VCU Health and the newly opened VCU Health Motivate Clinic.

Continuing medical education

Back to the Future: Moving Beyond Opioids for Chronic Pain
Sept. 15-16, 2018
Richmond, Virginia

Safe Opiate Prescribing
Online Course