On October 4, 2018, I had the opportunity to hear from three different researchers regarding the opioid crisis both locally and on a world-wide scale.
One researcher looked at the crisis from a sociological standpoint, developing a link between domestic violence and opioid abuse. She conducted studies on various groups of women and noted that counseling in domestic violence cases often results in the survivor coming out about substance abuse. She claimed that service providers are struggling to combat opioid abuse victims and there have been cases of victims overdosing in abuse-help shelters. Her next step in research is to conduct phone surveys with domestic abuse survivors to discuss opioid addiction and solidify the link between abuse and substance dependency in various socio-economic locations.
Another researcher was developing methods to reduce opioid abuse through the implementation of a virtual reality distraction. He played a clip from a Chinese parable which depicted an army general in need of a surgical procedure but lacked pain medication. To reduce the sensation of pain, the general played chess to distract himself (non-pharmaceutical pain reduction) which, as the parable shows, was an effective method. This researcher conducted a study on out-patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in which a 3-D immersive virtual environment was used to distract children in need of burn dressing changes. Conductors of the study asked the participants various questions about their perceived pain with and without the virtual reality distraction and concluded that patient satisfaction was around 96%. Along with this, 96% of participants stated they would use this method in future procedures and overall, observed and perceived pain was reduced with VR technology. The next step in his research is the testing of the “BuyBack” program in which companies buy opioids back from patients to help reduce addiction and he plans to generalize his findings through the repetition of this study in different children’s hospitals.
The last researcher took a psychological standpoint and discussed the creation of a ‘Best Practices Model’ to use in cases of opioid addiction and abuse. He stated that the opioid crisis is very complex, and the lack of education and sufficient interventions leads to many opioid users relapsing continuously until overdose. The model, pictured below, shows opioid users (or people with OUD) on the left with an event or injury leading up to their inevitable treatment. The three flow-charts depicted on the right show the modes of recovery from an opioid-related event: emergency services, treatment centers, and pathways to recovery. He emphasized that people using opioids will usually relapse without proper resources and a fluid, step-by-step recovery process. This researcher was given a grant to conduct a study in which 50 people with OUD will be questioned in a survey along with 50 workers from treatment centers and 50 workers from emergency services in order to depict where the process of recovery is flawed and why so many opioid users are not reaching full independence from the drug. With this data, he will be able to create an effective model for recovery in order to reduce the number of opioid users and opioid-related deaths. This was my favorite presentation, as I did not realize there was a lack of a ‘Best Practices Model’ for opioid addiction and with this, there could be a dramatic decline in relapse. I look forward to hearing more about this initiative and seeing how the model he creates will be implemented in the recovery process of users.