Every day 44 people die in the U.S. from an overdose of prescription drugs, the majority of which involve an opioid, or painkiller. The number of these deaths has nearly quadrupled since 1999, as well as the number of opioid prescriptions being sold.
Considering the amount of pain Americans report each year has overall not changed, the excessive Opiate use in the U.S. is now considered a public health crisis. This overprescribing and overuse “epidemic” can be attributed to three primary causes: lack of knowledge, money and personal addiction.
Luckily, Penn State is now one of 191 nursing and pharmacy schools that have decided to take the initiative to solve at least one of these problems: lack of knowledge.
Dean of Penn State’s College of Nursing, Paula Milone-Nuzzo, addressed that nursing students have long been trained on dealing with the mental health challenges of patients suffering from abuse and addiction. The goal now is to educate students on how to more proactively prevent abuse from happening in the first place, a responsibility more nuanced than simply not overprescribing medication. Prescribers must be conservative in what and how much they prescribe for patients without possibly compromising their health.
Nursing students will now be specially trained to perform basic nursing responsibilities, as well as physician responsibilities like ordering tests and, of course, prescribing medication.
In the past there has been push back against giving nurses the ability to prescribe medication, for fear of it prescribing privileges being abused and thus worsening the problem. However with the proper training and education, as so many medical schools are striving to provide, the risk is no greater than that of a physician abusing the same privileges.
Schools like Penn State are preparing their students to better serve patients. And while it may be a long road to recovery from the problem of over medicating and abuse in America, the goal in the meantime is that these future medical professionals will at least prevent it from getting any worse.