College Health Addresses Opioid Epidemic With New Prescribing Guidelines

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New guidelines assist college health professionals in maximizing safety and reducing potential for abuse when prescribing opioids.

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College students are not immune to the opioid epidemic, and these prescribing guidelines will help college health professionals reduce the misuse of prescription opioids within campus communities.

The American College Health Association (ACHA), the nation’s principal advocate and leadership organization for college health, announces the release of its new guidelines Opioid Prescribing in College Health. Developed by a special task force, these new guidelines describe the issues surrounding opioid prescribing, outline methods for increasing patient safety when prescribing opioids, and identify possible avenues to assist addicted students with rehabilitation, recovery, and return to the college environment.

In the face of the current opioid epidemic, college health professionals may feel unprepared when prescribing for long term pain management, and smaller or more rural campuses may not have access to qualified off-campus pain management specialists. The new ACHA guidelines were developed in order to better prepare college health professionals to meet students’ needs for pain management while maximizing their safety and educating them on the potential for opioid misuse and overdose. The guidelines include recommendations for:

  • Screening patients for conditions (such as depression or family history of substance abuse) that increase the likelihood of opioid abuse
  • Determining whether the risks of using prescription opioids outweigh the benefits to the patient
  • Preparing a college health center for and providing training in overdose prevention and response
  • Considering buprenorphine, an opioid medication used to treat opioid addiction
  • Providing support for students entering or returning to campus from residential recovery or other treatment options
  • Informing the wider campus community on the risks of opioid abuse

“College students are not immune to the opioid epidemic, and these prescribing guidelines will help college health professionals reduce the misuse of prescription opioids within campus communities,” says chair of the task force Jessica Higgs, MD, director of Health Services at Bradley University. “Physicians must be aware of and have access to resources available to best treat their patients for acute and chronic pain management as well as addiction. This is especially important for college health providers, who are often treating patients who lack a medical home.”

“With the CDC estimating that nearly two million people in the U.S. abused or were dependent on opioid prescriptions in 2014, this is an issue that cannot be ignored. By providing college health professionals with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions when treating students for pain management, we can help our members improve the way in which opioids are prescribed and reduce the number of students who misuse or overdose on these medications,” says Jamie Davidson, PhD, FACHA, ACHA president and associate vice president of Student Wellness at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “ACHA’s mission is to advance the health of college students and campus communities, and this means we must support college health professionals in providing more effective chronic pain management and making our campuses safer for all students.”

The guidelines can be downloaded here. ACHA provides many other college health guidelines and recommendations, available at http://www.acha.org/Guidelines.

About ACHA
The American College Health Association (ACHA), founded in 1920, is a national nonprofit association serving as the nation’s principal leadership organization for advancing the health of college students and campus communities through advocacy, education, and research. ACHA represents a diverse membership that provides and supports the delivery of health care, prevention, and wellness services for the nation’s 20 million college students. ACHA advocates for student health by integrating the critical role of college health into the mission of higher education. For more information about the association visit http://www.acha.org.

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