Every day, more than 100 people in the U.S. die from opioid use. Addiction and overdose from opioid prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl— have resulted in a public health crisis that has shattered families and lives in communities across the country.
This crisis didn’t happen overnight. Beginning in the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies aggressively marketed new opioid prescriptions, convincing the medical establishment that it was safe to prescribe the drugs for routine surgeries and chronic pain. As a result, more people were exposed to opioids than ever before.
“Combating the Opioid Crisis: AFT Responds,” which is now available on the AFT’s e-learning platform, includes video-based content created by faculty and staff experts at Harvard Medical School, and addresses widely recognized training and information gaps AFT members may encounter when dealing with the realities of treating and counseling people about the challenges of opioid use and addiction. Any AFT member—from librarians to correctional officers to school nurses—can use the information taught in this course to learn how to recognize the signs of addiction, what do when someone is overdosing, and much more.
The program aims to provide education and healthcare professionals with critical tools and resources to support patients, students and families affected by the opioid crisis, and will be distributed widely to AFT members and their networks. It launches as a new report from the National Safety Council out this week indicates that for the first time in history, Americans are more likely to die from opioid overdoses than car crashes.
“Our members are educators and school staff, nurses, physicians and social service workers; and they witness the real costs of this epidemic to families, to our healthcare system and to our community and educational institutions,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s time that addiction is seen as what it is: a disease. This platform will offer those on the frontlines important tools to help fight back against the causes of opioid use, including tools to recognize chemical dependence, administer overdose response, and a guide to advocate for funding and treatment so that patients get the care they need.”
The interactive course developed by Harvard Medical School, includes lessons about opioid and substance use with questions throughout as well as a review of key points at the end of each section. Participants will hear from experts and other health professionals in the field of substance use disorder as well as individuals who are in recovery. The topics covered include: what opioids are; what opioid addiction is, and who is at risk; signs and symptoms of substance use; what an overdose looks like and how you should respond, including a demonstration of how to administer naloxone, effective treatment options for opioid addiction and a discussion about how to support people in recovery.
The course is free but requires registration. Healthcare professionals can earn continuing education credits following successful completion of the course.
The AFT also has a new resource guide equipped with tools and training materials that our members can use to understand how addiction, find access to treatment, and help fight the stigma that prevents many individuals and families from getting help.