Today is Preventing Prescription and Opioid Drug Misuse day. The occasion provides an opportunity to assess our efforts at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus to address the opioid crisis gripping our state.
This epidemic is devastating communities, families and individuals across Colorado and the country. On average 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdose; it was responsible for 560 deaths in Colorado in 2017. And for every death, there are many more people struggling with opioid addiction.
Nicholas Antonio is one of them. His experience as a survivor of the Columbine school shooting 20 years ago led to significant post-traumatic stress disorder, and he turned to opioids to cope. After a downward spiral that included jail time, he finally found the help he needed at the Sheridan Health Services clinic, operated by the CU College of Nursing. There he received medication-assisted treatment (MAT), a whole-patient approach that combines FDA-approved medications with counseling and behavioral therapies. The approach not only worked for Nicholas; it has proven so effective in treating opioid addiction that governments at all levels are expanding access to it – including in rural Colorado, with the help of our nursing and medical schools.
MAT is just one among many fronts from which the CU Anschutz Medical Campus is tackling opioid abuse. To address the massive scale of the crisis, we’re marshaling our resources across the spectrum of health fields.
We’re doing much more than will fit in one email, and support from our community plays an integral role in this work.
With health and well-being at the heart of our mission, we have both the capability and the responsibility to address the seriousness and complexity of the opioid crisis broadly, and in concert with many other institutions. There is no single fix, but by attacking it from all sides we are making progress.