CU Nursing - Fall/Winter 2019 - 6

6

COLLEGE

Bringing Hope
to the Opioid
Epidemic

F

By Courtney Keener, communications specialist

ormer ski racer Ashley
McAuliffe suffered numerous
ski-related injuries, including
broken ankles and wrists,
throughout her career. At age
18, the pain became so intense
that she was prescribed opioids to cope. Three years later,
she found herself addicted to
the very pills that were supposed to help her. Eventually,
her physicians refused to fill the prescriptions and
she turned to heroin. After a downward spiral that
landed her in rehab three times, McAuliffe, now 35, finally found the help she
needed at a clinic in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, thanks to an innovative
treatment program spearheaded by the CU College of Nursing.
In 2017, Colorado lawmakers passed Senate Bill 17-074, providing funding for a
pilot program to deliver medication-assisted treatment to victims of the opioid
epidemic. In the program, CU Nursing faculty train local nurse practitioners
and physician assistants to deliver treatment at three clinical sites in Pueblo
and Routt counties. The treatment is an effective approach to treating opioid
addiction, combining medication with long-term behavioral therapy.
The program is just one of many initiatives under the Colorado Consortium
for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, housed at the CU Skaggs School of
Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The consortium is under the umbrella
of the Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, established this past
summer. The center gives the CU Anschutz community opportunities to collaborate and coordinate across disciplines.
"Our mission is to reduce the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs in Colorado
through policy work, programs and partnerships throughout the state," said
Robert Valuck, PhD, the consortium's director, who is leading efforts to combat
the opioid epidemic across Colorado.
"People who live in rural areas are more susceptible to opioid abuse because
of socioeconomic conditions and lack of access to mental health services,"

CU College of Nursing | Fall/Winter 2019

Prescription drugs
are fueling the
opioid crisis.

said Tanya Sorrell, PhD, a CU Nursing
faculty member and psychiatric
nurse practitioner who oversees
the medication-assisted treatment
program. "There's also more physical labor involved in these areas,
so pain medications prescribed for
work-related injuries can often lead
to addiction."
Through the program, nurse practitioners and physician assistants
deliver a two-pronged approach to
help opioid addicts remain sober
longer and, eventually, overcome their
addiction.
Suboxone, methadone and naltrexone
help manage withdrawal symptoms.
They also stabilize chemical reactions
in the brain to balance anxiety, mood
and emotional issues that commonly
co-occur with substance abuse disorders. In this way, these medications



CU Nursing - Fall/Winter 2019

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Contents
CU Nursing - Fall/Winter 2019 - Contents
CU Nursing - Fall/Winter 2019 - 2
CU Nursing - Fall/Winter 2019 - 3
CU Nursing - Fall/Winter 2019 - 4
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CU Nursing - Fall/Winter 2019 - Cover4
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