Wake Forest Baptist Takes Comprehensive Approach to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

June 29, 2017

 Medication drop-off boxes, non-opioid anesthesia and mindfulness training for pain management are part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s action plan across its health system to deliver medical care and research to reduce the growing opioid epidemic.

“We recognize that opioid abuse is a serious public health epidemic,” said Kevin High, M.D., executive vice president, health system affairs, Wake Forest Baptist Health. “That’s why we are confronting this problem head-on, with programs aimed at research, prevention, screening and treatment.”

Wake Forest Baptist is now offering medication drop-off boxes to aid in the proper collection and disposal of unwanted medications. These drop-off boxes, available at seven Wake Forest Baptist outpatient pharmacy locations, offer a secure, confidential and convenient way to dispose of unwanted controlled, non-controlled and over-the-counter medicines during each pharmacy’s regular business hours. The medications are safely and securely stored before being routed to an incineration plant.

“The goal of these drop-off boxes is to help keep our communities safe,” said Jennifer Tryon, Pharm.D., chief pharmacy officer, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We saw this as an opportunity to serve our patients and their families and help keep prescription medications away from children who may accidentally ingest them or others who may abuse them.”

According to a 2015 national survey, 6.4 million Americans age 12 and over, abuse prescription drugs. In fact, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Most prescription drug abusers say they obtain their drugs from friends and family, often from the home medicine cabinet, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports prescription opioid abuse is driving the increase in opioid overdose, which kills 91 Americans every day.

Additional research, prevention, screening and treatment programs at Wake Forest Baptist include:

Research and Education – Created the Center for Research on Substance Use and Addiction to better understand, prevent and treat substance use and addiction.  Expanded areas of expertise include medication assisted treatment and clinical trials to study alternative ways to treat pain and reduce use of opioid pain medications.  In June, Wake Forest Baptist received a $50,000 grant to provide specific educational opportunities to optimally prepare healthcare professionals with evidence based tools to fight the opioid epidemic. Our counseling intervention service trains master’s and doctoral-level counselors in specialized alcohol and other drug screening and intervention care at the bedside of those hospitalized with substance use related complications;

Prevention – Implemented new pain management tools that have reduced opiate use in trauma patients by almost 50 percent, offer non-opioid anesthesia for elective surgeries and non-addictive pain medications in the Emergency Department and established new protocol to wean patients off opioids after trauma surgeries;

Screening – Screen 100 percent of trauma and burn patients for risky use and substance use disorders and when necessary, refer them to treatment, as part of a leading national effort to better identify and intervene in a timely manner;

Treatment – Provide medication-assisted treatment with groups, intensive outpatient counseling and bedside interventions for patients with trauma, burns and other medical needs and increased the number of addiction specialists who provide treatment and connections to community resources.

“The fight against the opioid epidemic is not the responsibility of any one particular area of health care,” said Margaret Rukstalis, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine and director of the Addiction Integrated Provider Unit at Wake Forest Baptist. “Patients, families and communities need to work together with health care providers to help break down barriers as we study new ways to prevent, screen and treat those addicted to opioids and other substances.”

Media Relations

Joe McCloskey: jmcclosk@wakehealth.edu, 336-716-1273

Eryn Johnson: eryjohns@wakehealth.edu, 336-713-8228