International Overdose Awareness Day

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An International Day to Acknowledge the Devastating Impact of Substance Abuse

August 31 will be International Overdose Awareness Day, and NursaTM acknowledges the importance of this global campaign. Overdose, whether resulting in death or not, is a painful climax in the battle of the disease, addiction. It leaves much anger, pain, and grief behind in its wake, and unfortunately often shame as well. International Overdose Awareness Day seeks to bring knowledge and support to the issue, and a campaign to end the stigma which can prevent people who suffer from seeking help with the disease of addiction.

The impact of the novel coronavirus on the people of the United States has been discussed in depth and with high frequency. Research, surveys, and studies seek to identify exactly where and how severely the negative effects are presenting in both children and adults. Furthermore, while much time and energy has been spent acknowledging and attempting to combat the harmful effects of limited socialization and the relentlessness of the pandemic, for this international day of observance we must acknowledge the rise in substance abuse overdoses as well.

The coronavirus has broken in wave after wave across the country. New hot spots pop up while others calm down. However, there has been another wave rising in the shadows, overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a report they released at the beginning of the month, deaths by overdose rose in the year 2020 by a shocking 29.4% from 2019. In 2020, as the nation battled the fear and uncertainty of a persistent pandemic, over 93,000 lives were lost by overdose as compared to the 72,151 in 2019.

The drug categories of the report included but were not limited to: heroine, natural opioids, semisynthetic opioids, synthetic opioids including methadone, cocaine, and psychostimulants.

According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), “Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine also increased in 2020 compared to 2019. Cocaine deaths also increased in 2020, as did deaths from natural and semi-synthetic opioids (such as prescription pain medication).”

Prior to the pandemic, the nation was already experiencing an opioid epidemic and much attention has been focused to the advocacy and legislation surrounding the topic. When the timing of the new data for the year 2020 is considered, it can be almost intuitive to believe that as states were locking down in the face of COVID, that addiction services or availability may have been interrupted in a time where all people suffering addiction or not, were socially isolated and experiencing heightened fear, uncertainty, and stress. Lack of availability is not solely to blame however for the rise of overdose deaths, because it is known that addiction is a disease that has many different origin stories and triggers.

Nurses and allied healthcare workers often have close contact with patients struggling with substance abuse. Clinicians working in a psychiatric unit see a high frequency of substance abuse due to the high number of patients who have a dual diagnosis, a mental health diagnosis and an addiction. Psychiatric specialty nurses are in high demand to meet the need, as are emergency department specialty nurses who are often on the front line to save a patient from a death by overdose.

For some free training resource materials check the following sources:

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) created a quick 15-minute course, “Engaging the Nursing Community in Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder“, available for free.

Moreover, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an Opioid Overdose Prevention TOOLKIT available for free download for interested clinicians.

While widely acknowledged that there are a variety of substances available for overdose, opioids are a main cause. Backed by research showing the alarming rise of opioid use and overdose, the opioid epidemic is not solely an issue for civilians. Healthcare workers have opportunity to witness the devastating effects of substance abuse, and yet that does not mean they are all immune. There are support systems in place for nurses or nursing students who struggle with substance abuse and want help that is an alternative to punitive discipline. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) maintains a link that allows a state specific search for programs to help licensed nurses with substance abuse disorder (SUD). Additionally, some prominent nursing organizations are supportive of non-punitive recovery programs for nurses and nursing students, including: Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), and American Nursing Association (ANA).

NursaTM encourages nurses and healthcare workers to prioritize self-care as nurse shortages continue to drive up PRN work demand. Furthermore, to practice compassion for themselves, and their patients who struggle with substance abuse. Each patient who dies of an overdose or overcomes an overdose attempt is worthy of compassionate, quality care.

About NursaTM 

NursaTM is a per diem healthcare staffing agency that streamlines the temp staffing process by digitalizing it. Through the smartphone application, hundreds of PRN shift opportunities are available in real-time for registered (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), nurse practitioners (NPs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and allied healthcare workers in hospitals and inpatient facilities nationwide. For clinicians who have a calling for this particular struggle, certifications and trainings may be of benefit to boost knowledge and competitiveness. Download the smartphone application to get started browsing job availability near you.

#EndOverdose #OverdoseAware #IOAD2021

Written by Miranda Booher, RN

Miranda is a 13-year registered nurse with a healthy background in travel nursing and healthcare marketing. She brings an interesting combination of stellar copywriting skills and first-hand nursing experience to the table. Miranda understands the industry and has an impeccable ability to write about it. And speaking of travel - Miranda currently lives in Uruguay, though she maintains an active Registered Nurse license in the state of Ohio and stays current on the latest healthcare news through her writing. When she is not creating killer copy, or serving others through her work as a nurse, you can find her hanging out on the beach with her devoted husband, three beautiful kids, and their guardian Shepsky, Ashes.

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