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Reducing Opioid Overdose and Misuse

In recent years evidence has made clear the risks and harms of long-term opioid use driven by overprescribing. Oregon Health Authority has been at the forefront of transforming prescribing practices, in part by convening task forces to develop guidelines and best practices to encourage safe prescribing and pain management across the health system. However, OHA recognizes that little is known about how best to help long-term opioid patients taper while honoring individual needs, addressing pain and preserving trust.

OHA is convening experts on the Oregon Opioid Taper Guidelines Task Force The resulting guidelines from this task force will supplement the Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Chronic Pain to help patients and prescribers approach opioid tapering with best practices in mind.

The Oregon Opioid Taper Guidelines Task Force currently meets publicly monthly through September 2019. Representation includes diverse perspectives and experiences with long-term opioids and tapering, including community members. 

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Opioid crisis in Oregon

Oregon, like the rest of the US, is experiencing an opioid crisis, involving misuse, abuse, overdose and death. This crisis involves both prescription opioid pain medications, as well as illicit opioids such as heroin and non-pharmaceutical fentanyl. Oregon has one of the highest rates of misuse of prescription opioids in the nation.

An average of 5 Oregonians die every week from opioid overdose. Heroin contributes to a significant number of overdose deaths, and illicit fentanyl-related deaths are increasing dramatically. Many overdose deaths involve multiple drugs, including both pharmaceutical and illicit opioids. Many more Oregonians develop opioid use disorder and/or dependency.


What OHA is doing to address the opioid crisis

The Oregon Health Authority aims to reduce the burden of opioid misuse and abuse through these key strategies:

  • Supporting safe and effective non-opioid pain management
  • Increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and naloxone rescue
  • Decreasing the number of pills in circulation through appropriate prescribing
  • Collecting and reporting data to inform policy

Current Oregon data suggest that the statewide strategies are making an impact:

  • Prescription opioid overdose deaths decreased 45% between 2006 and 2016.
  • Opioid overdose hospitalizations have slightly increased.
  • Prescriptions for opioids have been steadily declining over several years.

Prescribing Guidelines

Oregon's Acute Opioid Prescribing Guidelines workgroup has approved adoption of Oregon Acute Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for patients not currently on opioids.

This work builds on the recommendations of Oregon's Opioid Prescribing Guidelines Task Force which approved adoption of Oregon Chronic Opioid Prescribing Guidelines in 2016.

Both sets of guidelines focus on recommendations to improve patient safety and care, and address the ongoing prescription opioid overdose epidemic.

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