Study finds need for unified substance use disorder education across health care colleges


March 23, 2022

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The opioid crisis in America continues to upend lives and devastate communities. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics found that 4,551 people in Ohio died of opioid overdoses between March 2020 and March 2021, which ranks Ohio fourth nationally for opioid-related deaths.

Stifling the further development of the crisis and saving lives starts with proper training of health care professionals. That’s why the Ohio attorney general appointed a team of experts called the Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education (SCOPE) to study the development of the opioid crisis and apply educational strategies.

SCOPE includes two faculty members from The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy: Myriam Shaw Ojeda, PharmD, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and science, and Tessa Miracle, PhD, lecturer of pharmacy education and innovation. They co-authored a research article that outlines results from a recent survey given to 49 health care schools to measure education around pain management, adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and their relationship to substance use disorders (SUD).

The 49 schools they surveyed included a variety of health care professions, such as pharmacy, nursing, optometry, medicine, dentistry and more.

According to the article, the survey included four domains to screen health care education on SUD:

  1. The initial screening process of patients
  2. Training in SUD
  3. Training in care for patients at high risk for SUD
  4. Education in evaluating patients for ACE

Per the article, most of the schools that completed the survey offer some form of training on SUD principles in the core curriculum, but ethical issues surrounding SUDs were not widely covered. The inclusion of pain management strategies, pharmacologic therapy, risk of medication misuse and motivational interview training varied greatly between health care schools.

The study concludes that there is a “need for a unified, consistent and expanded training requirement in the foundations of pain management, SUDs and ACEs in professional health care education.”

“The relationship between ACE and SUD is well defined, but health care providers can help ensure patients receive adequate support, and guidance,” Dr. Miracle said. “Empowering health care providers to target patient needs regarding SUD and ACE will help fill the gaps in current patient experiences.”

“The aim of this study was to find methods to address the education of health care providers around the opioid crisis,” Dr. Shaw Ojeda said. “We were able to identify domains where education can be enhanced as our health care providers are taught about SUD and its relation to ACEs. Our hope is that the study leads to action that will inform thoughtful and evidence-based care of patients.”