Virginia: Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse Starts with Training
Abuse of prescription painkillers is a serious public health problem in the United States. During 2000–2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses, and 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. In 2011, more Virginians died accidentally from overdoses than from car crashes. Improving the way painkillers are prescribed can reduce the number of people abusing these drugs or overdosing from them. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) used a portion of its Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds to teach healthcare providers about CDC’s best practices for drug overdose prevention.
VDH offered four training classes to teach healthcare providers how to reduce and prevent drug overdoses for patients at risk. Providers also learned how to interpret reports from Virginia’s drug overdose monitoring system and how to use that information to make better treatment plans for their patients. In addition, the VDH training taught providers how to care for pregnant women with drug addictions and how to help their newborn babies.
During the training, providers learned about Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program (VPMP), a reporting and tracking system for all controlled substances, including prescription painkillers. Participating pharmacies enter a patient’s use of these drugs into a central database that is shared with 16 nearby states. Healthcare providers can then access a patient’s medication history to help manage that person’s treatment. More than 250 providers successfully completed the training, and some voluntarily joined the VPMP. Many providers planned to use the best practices they learned for preventing drug abuse to improve their patients’ care.
Building on initial provider participation in the voluntary VPMP system—and recognizing the increased potential for public health benefit—the state began requiring doctors and pharmacists to register with VPMP in January 2016. As more healthcare providers join and use the VPMP, better monitoring of prescription painkiller use can help avert drug misuse and prevent overdoses.
PHHS Block Grant funding has helped VDH provide essential professional training, education, and resources to help prevent abuse of prescription painkillers and drug overdoses.
Story year: 2015