The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in wide-reaching public health impacts, including mental health challenges and increased substance misuse.

COVID-19 & the Opioid Crisis

Prevent Overdose with the Prescription Monitoring Program

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in wide-reaching public health impacts, including mental health challenges and increased substance misuse. Checking the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) is more important than ever.

The American Medical Association released a brief outlining increasing reports of opioid-related overdose deaths nationwide as a result of the pandemic. With social distancing guidelines in effect, some of the usual coping mechanisms may no longer be available to people struggling with a mental illness or opioid use disorder. Along with the economic and social anxieties caused by the pandemic, the risk for substance misuse or relapse may increase.

Conversations about these issues are complex to begin with, and telemedicine can make them even more difficult. Regardless of the setting, consider incorporating the following evidence-based communication techniques into your patient consultations as you check the PMP when prescribing opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or carisoprodol.

Address Mental Health

The toll of the pandemic on your patients’ mental health is worth addressing. Iso-lation and boredom can be triggers for misuse. Consider asking open-ended questions such as: “A lot is going on right now in the world, so I have been asking patients how they are coping with changes in their lives. What has changed for you over the past few months? How are you feeling?”

Discuss Misuse

Define misuse and reiterate the risks of mixing alcohol with opioids and other medications. When prescribing opioids, inform patients: “Something we emphasize for all patients taking this medication - any non-medical use is misuse. Taking more than directed or mixing your medication with alcohol can cause dangerous side effects, including overdose.”

Use the teach-back method to ensure understanding. Try asking: “I want to make sure we’re on the same page. Will you repeat back to me what this medication is for, and how and when you should take it?”

Just as wearing masks can prevent the spread of infection, checking the PMP for every patient, every time, helps you protect your patients from misuse and overdose.

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