PHOENIX, Dec. 12, 2018  – As the nationwide opioid crisis continues[1], registered nurses (47 percent), administrative staff (51 percent) and U.S. adults (35 percent) agree that opioids/other prescription drug abuse is one of the top three healthcare crises that will have the most detrimental effect on the U.S. population in the next five years. This is according to a recent University of Phoenix online survey of 273 registered nurses, 256 administrative staff, and 2,006 U.S. adults of whom 1,215 were recent patients, who were asked about opioid abuse and other healthcare-related topics. The survey was done to understand the impact the crisis has had on the U.S. population, what healthcare professionals are seeing, and how healthcare professionals can be prepared to deal with this issue.

“According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 116 people die a day from opioid-related drug overdoses[2]. Having all groups indicate that opioid abuse is a top concern reinforces how, while this topic continues to dominate headlines, more work is needed to reduce this number and find alternative treatment methods,” said Holly Orozco, Dr. P.H., dean for the College of Humanities and Sciences at University of Phoenix. “To make meaningful progress on this issue, we need to know what treatment methods people are currently using, understand the training healthcare professionals have to pinpoint potential addictions, and do more research on how to improve both training and access to appropriate treatments for those who suffer from pain.”

Are Patients Honest with Healthcare Professionals about How They Manage Pain?

Most registered nurses (80 percent) say they know a patient has been treating with something other than that prescribed because the patient has told them. Meanwhile, the vast majority of U.S. adults (84 percent) say they are honest with healthcare providers about how they manage pain.

In addition to saying patients tell them, when asked what the indications are that a patient has been using something other than prescribed treatment, registered nurses said the following:

  • Their behavior shows it (63 percent)
  • Their eyes show it (45 percent)
  • I can smell it (37 percent)
  • I caught them taking/using it (19 percent)

Pain-Reducing Agents Used and Increase in Request for Opioids

On average, registered nurses who report a percentage say more than two in five (48 percent) patients ask about using opioids to manage pain. When asked what pain-reducing agents are used by patients to manage pain, registered nurses and U.S. adults indicated the following:

Registered Nurses

  • Over-the-counter medications (73 percent)
  • Prescription drugs, not including opioids, for recreation use (i.e. Xanax, Ritalin, Adderall) (64 percent)
  • Medical and/or prescribed marijuana (47 percent)
  • Homeopathic remedies (46 percent)
  • Other narcotics (41 percent)
  • Non-medical marijuana (41 percent)
  • Alcohol (38 percent)

U.S. Adults

  • Over-the-counter medications (71 percent)
  • Prescription drugs, not including opioids, for recreation use (i.e. Xanax, Ritalin, Adderall)  (30 percent)
  • Homeopathic remedies (17 percent)
  • Alcohol (14 percent)
  • Non-medical marijuana (11 percent)
  • Other narcotics (10 percent)
  • Medical and/or prescribed marijuana (9 percent)

“This data shows an inherent disconnect between what healthcare professionals are seeing in the field and what their patients are telling them regarding how they honestly manage pain,” said Dr. Orozco. “It is essential that healthcare professionals understand the inherent differences between true addiction and chronic pain, and the nuances on how to treat both that exist. All professionals in the healthcare industry, from those prescribing medication to those filling them, must know what the signs of addiction are and how to recognize them in order to effectively combat the opioid crisis.”

Training to Recognize Opioid Addiction and Whole-Body Approach to Pain Management

When asked if they have received formal training on how to recognize the signs of addiction versus chronic pain, 66 percent of registered nurses and 43 percent of administrative staff indicated they had received training and that they frequently use it.

Whole-body approach techniques, which look to psychological as well as physical symptoms of pain to determine how to best treat issues, have been suggested as a way to combat opioid addiction. When asked if they have received training, registered nurses and healthcare administrators said:  

  • Registered Nurses
    I have received training on cutting-edge chronic pain management techniques using a whole-body approach during my formal education. – 56 percent
  • Healthcare Administrators
    I have received training on cutting-edge chronic pain management techniques using a whole-body approach during my formal education. – 42 percent

However, 94 percent of registered nurses and 81 percent of administrative staff agree that these whole-body approach techniques are often underutilized in favor of a quick opioid fix.

“Knowing that healthcare professionals feel that techniques designed to combat opioid addiction are not being used is concerning. It is our responsibility to ensure this group is able to effectively use their formal and on-the-job training to pinpoint if patients suffer from opioid abuse and, if so, how they can help them,” said Dr. Orozco. “This often begins with understanding and treating mental health issues that could serve as the underlying cause for opioid abuse. University of Phoenix addresses the concerns stemming from the opioid crisis in our Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, which seeks to help students learn ways to recognize and treat addiction from a psychological standpoint.”

To view a visual representation of the data, click here. For more information about the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, visit https://www.phoenix.edu/degrees/behavioral-sciences/msc-ccmh.html.

Survey Methodology
The professional arm of the study was conducted online within the United States on behalf of University of Phoenix by The Harris Poll between Sept. 25-Oct. 9, 2018, among 529 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, who are employed as either registered nurses or healthcare administrative staff, and have served in their current role at least two years. The sample included 273 registered nurses and 256 administrative staff. Figures were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. The general population arm of the study was conducted online within the United States on behalf of University of Phoenix by The Harris Poll between Sept. 13-17, 2018 among 2,006 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, 1,215 of whom had been patients within the past three months. Figures for gender, age, race/ethnicity, household income, investable assets, education, household size, employment status, marital status, and region were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. For more information, please contact Amanda Barchilon.

About University of Phoenix®
University of Phoenix is innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit phoenix.edu.

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[1] https://www.hrsa.gov/opioids

[2] https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/