By now it’s hard to imagine that anyone in the social service sector would be unaware of the current opioid epidemic—the largest anthropogenic epidemic in human history according to University of Washington professor Dr. Gary Franklin. From 2005-2016 opioid use in the United States fueled a 51% increase in the combined death rate from drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, or suicide. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines the opioid epidemic on their website with the following three points:
- In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates.
- Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.
- In 2017, HHS declared a public health emergency and announced a 5-Point Strategy To Combat the Opioid Crisis
Of note, the majority of people who take prescription pain medication do not misuse them. Still opioids are the second most used drug among Americans, next only to marijuana.
Behind this addiction epidemic is yet another pervasive social problem, that of intimate partner and sexual violence (IPV/SA). While this is not news to advocates and community based programs, it is a hidden contributor to the epidemic that health care providers are often not informed of or equipped to address. Similarly, many advocates and community based programs may not be aware of the multi-directional intersections of IPV/SA and substance use disorders, including opioid misuse, and chronic pain, even as they note how often they see survivors struggling with addiction, medication misuse, and pain issues.
The Hidden Epidemic: Intersections of IPV, Chronic Pain, and Substance Use Disorders
In the next installment of OCADSV’s webinar series focused on intersections of health and intimate partner violence, presenters will explore the specific intersections of intimate partner violence, chronic pain, and opioid and substance use disorders. The webinar will outline research from national experts, like Dr. Carole Warshaw, MD and director of the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health, whose work examines the critical role that IPV plays in developing and exacerbating substance use disorders. Webinar participants will hear from Dr. Kate McKenna, MD MPH of One Community Health in Hood River, Oregon about her efforts to screen and refer suboxone clinic patients disclosing relationship concerns. She has developed a referral partnership with HAVEN from Domestic & Sexual Violence in The Dalles, Oregon to support patients at this intersection. Facilitators will share additional tools and resources for working with survivors concurrently struggling with substance use and intimate partner violence.