Researchers at Rutgers are forming new, multidisciplinary collaborations to address the opioid crisis that affects thousands of New Jersey residents who are victims of the epidemic.
“While the rest of the nation is plateauing or declining, New Jersey is among the few places where the numbers continue to go up with 3,000 projected deaths from opioid overdoses in this year,” said Kathleen Scotto, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) Vice Chancellor for Research and Research Training.
RBHS is organizing a series of workshops to discuss how novel research, clinical and educational initiatives at the university can help to address this major health crisis. The inaugural workshop recently addressed pain management and addiction; managing addiction in special populations; workforce training; prevention, early intervention and recovery support services; and health care services and health policy.
“Opioid abuse is an epidemic and a public health crisis, and both its economic and social cost make it a priority for us,” RBHS Chancellor Brian Strom told workshop attendees.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, drug overdoses reached a new high in 2017, killing more than 70,000 Americans. The increased number of deaths, officials say, strongly corresponds with the increased usage of synthetic opioids knows as fentanyl.
The increase in drug overdoses, federal officials say, have contributed to the reduction in life expectancy in the United States over the last three years. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for adults under age 55, according to the CDC.
This is why it is up to physicians, scientists and health care professionals to work together to better understand the biology of pain and addiction, identify community education opportunities, update curricula for health and medical professions students, and develop long-term centers and facilities to house multi-disciplinary experts and services to care for people in need.
“Today is just the beginning,” said Scotto. “Our RBHS Council of Research Deans recognized the value of bringing together our Rutgers experts in many interrelated areas of opioids and dependence.”
Scotto added, this multidisciplinary approach is necessary to solve health issues, and workshops like these that bring together experts across multiple fields are an important first step in tackling serious health issues and improving healthcare.
“The working group made some recommendations that can be acted upon immediately,” Scotto said. “We look to continue this conversation within Rutgers and with our hospital and state partners, so we can approach this crisis from new angles and make a positive impact in our state and beyond.”