CPM Fall 2019 - 15

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overnor Tom Wolf has recently re- are five ways to eliminate stigmatizing
newed the opioid emergency disaster actions and vocabulary and help Drug Free
declaration in Pennsylvania for the Workplace PA and recovery organizations
seventh time. Our emergency de- support SUD awareness:
partments are seeing a large increase in
opioid-related visits, and according to the
Know your facts. Addiction can also be
DEA, in 2017, the Commonwealth spiked called SUD or substance use disorder, and
to 5,456 overdose deaths. One in 3 families Opioid Addiction can also be called OUD
are affected by substance use disorder (SUD), or opioid use disorder. Babies are not born
is 1 in 2 people know someone affected. addicted; it is impossible for an infant to
These men, women, children, and teens be addicted. The proper terminology is
look a lot like you and me. They attend born dependent, exposed in utero, or born
school, run businesses, play on sports teams, with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
and coach our kids.
Employ non-judgmental terminology
As a health care professional, you wield and actions. This increases the likelihood
immense power to place patients on the road that a patient will seek and maintain treatto recovery, not only medically but with ment. When someone comes to a medical
your words, actions, and behaviors. When professional for help with a substance use
it comes to treating a patient suffering from disorder, it often takes every bit of his
SUD, the medical community is susceptible or her will and physical and emotional
to the same negative views and stigmatized energy to reach out. These conversations
language often used by the general public. begin with well-intentioned words, but
can devolve into condescension based on
preconceived ideas. Avoid using terms like
addict or junkie. Always use person-first
language, such as "Joe has a marijuana
use disorder," "Sara is a person in need of
treatment for an opioid use disorder," and
"John is a person in long-term recovery."
When speaking about toxicology results,
avoid calling the results dirty/clean; instead
use the terms positive/negative.

Most of us don't
understand the
complexities of
addiction. It's
a disease.

As the mother of a child who died from
an opioid overdose and of other children
who are in recovery, I know firsthand that
the quality of help offered by health care
professionals is directly related to their
personal opinions about SUD. That's
why I've dedicated my life and career to
educating Pennsylvania workplaces, CEOs,
managers, manufacturers, restaurant owners,
health systems, and non-profits on the signs
and symptoms of substance use and the
resources available to help create drug-free,
recovery-friendly workplaces.
Physicians and nurses are the first touchpoints in the SUD recovery process-you're
the director of first impressions. Here

Include family members in your conversations. Behind every patient is a
devastated family holding onto the hope
that their loved one will find recovery.
When possible, include family members
in the planning process. Listen to what
the family members are saying, or ask for
their thoughts. Often, family members
have been traveling this long, dark road
with their loved one and can provide
valuable input. Involving the family from
the first step also allows the family unit
to better understand what processes they
may need to put in place before their loved
one comes home. A family member's substance use profoundly impacts the entire
family unit. If you're able to refer parents
and caregivers to sources of emotional
support for themselves, please consider

recommending resources like Al-Anon,
Nar-Anon, or the Partnership for DrugFree Kids free parent coaching program.
Be mindful following an overdose episode.
Do not tell patients or their family members
that the use of Naloxone (Narcan) should
be limited per person-this medication is a
temporary opioid blocker, not a treatment.
It is a lifesaving tool that should be used
as many times as necessary. Keep in mind
when a person has recently been revived
with Naloxone, they may be irritable. If
the patient is not able or willing to answer
questions, give them some space and revisit.
Reserve judgment and opinions. Addiction is a disease, and when someone comes
to you for help, personal opinions do not
matter. Avoid hallway or side conversations
about the patient, or discussing the patient
with coworkers in front of the patient or
family members. We know our children
sometimes appear to be behaving emotionally much younger than their age. This is
believed to be the result of using substances
at a young age. Sometimes, taking an extra
moment to explain the process makes all
the difference in your ongoing relationship
with the patient and their family.
Changing the way that we speak about
substance use disorder in a clinical setting
is a critical first step toward helping our
communities recognize addiction as a
disease. Your compassion and effort can be
the difference between a patient refusing
to ask for help and helping them start and
stay on a lifelong recovery journey.
Kathy Strain is an educator with Drug
Free Workplace PA, a state-funded program
that assists employers with policy development,
training, and resources. They also provide
substance use education and signs and symptoms of use to health systems and community
organizations such as Scout troops, schools,
places of worship, and colleges and universities.
Kathy can be reached at KStrain@dfwpa.org.

Central PA Medicine Fall 2019 15


CPM Fall 2019

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