Wednesday's council at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy focused on educating the Rutgers community about the opioid epidemic and how to move toward rehabilitation efforts outside of the doctor's office.
A panel of doctors and professionals with experience in the field of opiate prescription and addiction spoke for approximately 2 hours to inform an audience of students and teachers about how opioid abuse is treated and how they can help themselves and their communities to fight against addiction.
Joseph Barone, the dean of the School of Pharmacy, presented the event as an opportunity for the Rutgers community to understand the problems of addiction and the best way to help those struggling to overcome drug abuse. The event was moderated by Nimit Jindal, a student of People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) of the School of Pharmacy and current national president of the Association of American Pharmacists-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP), who asked questions to the panelists. He led the conversation.
APhA-ASP is a student organization in pharmacy schools throughout the United States. The organization seeks to "be the collective voice of pharmaceutical students, provide opportunities for professional growth, improve patient care and anticipate and advance the future of pharmacy," according to its website.
The panel consisted of four physicians, a substance abuse counselor and a recovering student. All speakers had extensive experience in the abuse and treatment of opiates, and elaborated on what they have seen in the field and the steps that can be taken to alleviate drug abuse.
Of the four physicians, Patrick Bridgeman is a clinical pharmacist at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) and a professor in the School of Pharmacy. Grant Wei has been an emergency physician at RWJUH for 16 years where he has treated many opioid overdoses and substance abuse conditions. John Chatlos, also a member of RWJUH, is a medical doctor of two decades and specializes in psychiatry.
Another panelist was Robert Eilers, a psychiatrist and staff member of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and Keith Murphy, principal counselor of substance abuse for the Rutgers Home Recovery program. The program helps students rebuild their lives and fight against drug addiction, while offering them the opportunity to achieve higher education.
The panel addressed a variety of issues related to the use of opiates in the United States, including excessive access to prescription drugs, partisan culture and rehabilitation practices.
Chatlos said that one of the important aspects of the epidemic is how it is defined. The difference between use, abuse, addiction and disorder is important. Addiction is the loss of control and when a person loses the ability to deny himself the drug, becoming psychologically dependent on it, Chatlos said.
Although the use of drugs is the direct problem, addiction is not just about the pills, Chatlos said. It is also about the lives of abusers: the environment in which they find themselves, their problems at home, the financial situation and mental health. All these can affect the susceptibility of an individual to addiction.
The panel also discussed the importance of supportive care and how to help people once they leave the emergency room. Naloxone and other medications can save a patient for the day, but maintaining a drug-free lifestyle and avoiding an overdose in the future is something that doctors do not have the ability to provide and support resources and support programs for addicts, said Bridgeman.
Murphy, who has been a clinical counselor for alcohol and drugs for 14 years and works with such programs, said that one of the important steps in alleviating the epidemic is to treat people who want help and strive to improve . Being able to move abusers from an emergency clinic to a detoxification program and return to normal is key to ending and preventing addiction.
Supportive housing is an invaluable asset for recovering addicts because students need a safe space to begin rebuilding their lives. Murphy said that doctors and medication can put an end to the direct problem of substance dependence, but the road to addiction, the external problems faced by people who take them to abuse drugs, are difficult to solve if people do not They have a stable base to do it.
Reducing stigma and getting people to connect with resources to help them is vital to stopping the epidemic, according to speakers. Promoting an open conversation and addressing the problem objectively will help users find solutions and offer victims of drug addiction the opportunity to live a full life.
"People in recovery are not news," said Murphy. "People who dedicate themselves to active addiction are news, and unfortunately what happens is that it adds to the stigma."
The Student Assembly of Rutgers University (RUSA) sponsored the event through its Health and Welfare Committee. The committee works to benefit the general health of the student body through the promotion of mental health, the end of sexual violence and the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. RUSSA provided funds for the municipality.
The Rutgers chapter of APhA-ASP consists of approximately 120 students from the Faculty of Pharmacy. The organization sponsors several events and programs on campus, such as Pharmacy Career Day. The organization also has several initiatives that seek to promote health in the community, such as Operation Immunization and Operation Diabetes. Rutgers APhA-ASP is currently headed by a 10-member executive board and is overseen by Donna Feudo, vice dean of experiential education at the Faculty of Pharmacy.