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  • APTA Joins White House Effort to Reduce Opioid Abuse

    The White House has announced that APTA is among the organizations that have joined a public-private partnership to combat heroin use and prescription drug abuse, and that the association will reach out to the public and its members to deliver the message that pain can be effectively managed through conservative, nondrug approaches.

    APTA is participating in the initiative along with 39 other health care provider groups that include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons.

    "Efforts like these are at the heart of what we mean when we talk about the transformative power of physical therapy," said APTA President Sharon L. Dunn, PT, PhD, OCS. "Physical therapists can help individuals manage pain, and greater use of physical therapy could make a real impact on the tragic levels of drug abuse in this country—abuse that often begins with a prescription for pain medication."

    The partnership was announced by President Obama during an October 21 visit to Charleston, West Virginia, one of the states hardest-hit by growing rates of opioid abuse, heroin overdose, and related public health issues such as a rise in rates of Hepatitis B and C. During his visit, Obama spoke with individuals affected by the epidemic, including families, law enforcement personnel, and community leaders, before announcing the ramped-up efforts.

    On hand for the White House announcement was Mick Bates, PT, a member of the West Virginia House of Representatives.

    Earlier this year, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy met with Dunn and Mandy Frohlich, APTA vice president of strategic communications and alliances—at that time the association's vice president of government affairs—to discuss the role of physical therapy in battling drug abuse.

    The association's focus on the ways physical therapy can help patients manage pain is already being acknowledged by other media outlets, which have been writing about the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to pain that include exercise prescriptions.

    2015 - 10 - 21 - President Obama Speech on Opoid Abuse
    President Barack Obama speaks about new White House efforts to combat opioid abuse. APTA is among the partners helping with the initiative. (Photo courtesy of Mick Bates, PT.)

    APTA has long advocated for the role of the physical therapist (PT) in pain management, using its MoveForwardPT.com website to educate the public about it, and featuring new approaches to pain treatment being used by PTs in a 2014 feature story in PT in Motion magazine. More recently, the August issue of Physical Therapy (PTJ), APTA's peer-reviewed journal, includes a discussion of how to interpret the burgeoning effectiveness evidence from recent clinical trials and systematic reviews on pain treatment.


    • Use of opioid based pain medications can be very helpful, for short periods of time. In the book by David Butler, The Sensitized Nervous System, he notes that over time, neuronal opioid blocking occurs. So long term use of opioid meds is simply futile, and that is where the prescribing mistake occurs. Physicians need to be taught the science of that interaction. Insurance companies should invest in physician guided programs that titrate patients off opioids- we have to provide patients with the tools to come off meds like those. Physical Therapy should be part of any pain control regimen. Pharmaceutical companies should be provided with funding for research for other types of medications that do not have opioids or addictive qualities. Good for the APTA to be involved in finding ways to control this middle class "over-use of prescription pills and death by heroin" crisis. Our government needs to stay one step ahead of heroin trafficking, and place funds in cost effective multi-faceted drug treatment programs instead of jail for convicted drug addicts who have the potential for recovery. Finally, these are my personal opinions, and I am speaking as an individual, not as a representative of my employer.

      Posted by Lori on 10/21/2015 8:54 PM

    • Many of the patients seeking opioids for pain management are chronic. Many are covered by Medicare/Medicare Advantage programs and/or Medicaid. Sadly, providers wanting to treat these patients can't because of the therapy cap has been reached or they do not qualify because of medical necessity under Medicare guidelines. We should challenge President Obama to fix this broken system so PT's can contribute to such a deadly epidemic.

      Posted by William Doerhoff on 10/22/2015 9:10 AM

    • Until pain management policies as required by the Joint Commission are reviewed and changed to reflect a non-narcotic approach to pain management, we will see no changes. Joint Commission accreditation is a requirement in most states for hospitals to be licensed. In order to satisfy the JC standards on pain management since they were changed several years ago, narcotic pain management became the standard. Without the JC on board and willing to make changes in their standards, narcotic use for pain management will not change.

      Posted by John on 10/22/2015 12:46 PM

    • Unfortunately, there seems to be continued dependence on narcotic approach to pain control. I agree with the previous comment, education for both the patients and providers is needed in effective management of pain. I can personally vouch for a total non-narcotic post operative pain management with early mobility and other options like ice.

      Posted by Rita Shapiro on 10/27/2015 1:06 PM

    • I think everyone's comments here are well taken- pain control through non-narcotic measures can be effective if managed early and comprehensively. This would eliminate the opportunity to start down the road to addiction for a host of patients with acute and chronic pain issues. However, there's a much darker side to this problem- prescription narcotics have street value, physicians don't know the entire history of a patient visiting their office which leaves them open to manipulation, and patients know how to jump around from physician to physician and manipulate them to receive a prescription they fully intend to cash in on the street. The problem is drug addiction. The prescription narcotics market and acquisition process is just one way of many to feed the addiction.

      Posted by Bill on 10/30/2015 3:42 PM

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