New PCOM Program Seeks to Prevent Opioid MisuseSeptember 26, 2018
Research suggests that chronic pain is a key factor associated with opioid misuse;
one study out of Harvard University and funded by the National Institutes of Health
found that among patients with chronic pain, those who reported less ability to tolerate
physical or emotional distress were more likely to misuse opioid analgesics.
A new program at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) is attempting to address that emotional distress before misuse occurs, by teaching
sufferers safe and effective non-pharmaceutical pain management approaches.
Called the Community Partners in Fighting the Opioid Epidemic (CP-FOE), the initiative
will work to educate patients suffering from chronic pain about the dangers of opioid
misuse and teach them how to manage their chronic pain through techniques common in
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
“Roughly half of patients with chronic pain seek treatment through primary care, which
makes those practices an ideal access point to identify those at highest risk for
opioid misuse,” said Scott Glassman, PsyD ’13, associate director of the MS program in mental health counseling and creator of CP-FOE.
In addition to chronic pain, other predictors of opioid misuse include a current opioid
prescription; family or personal history of illicit drug use; poor sleep quality;
depression and impulsivity.
As part of the educational program where the dangers of opioid misuse are discussed,
patients in PCOM’s Family Medicine practices who suffer from chronic pain will take part in a survey to determine their
perceived level of pain as well as whether any other risk factors for misuse are present.
Participants will then learn specific techniques grounded in CBT that can help change
their mindset surrounding their pain, such as relaxation training, mindfulness, challenging
maladaptive beliefs about pain (e.g., “I can’t do anything because of pain”) and activity
pacing. Participants are encouraged to bring a family member or other trusted person
for support during the program. They can participate in online sessions, in a series
of individual meetings with a behavioral health consultant or in quarterly, 3-hour
A second arm of CP-FOE will focus on educating primary care practitioners on areas
such as signs of opioid misuse, who can be most at risk for opioid misuse, having
productive, patient-centered discussions about treatment options and where to send
patients if they are in need of treatment. The first of these sessions, for which
attendees will receive one continuing medical education credit, will take place Saturday,
“Opioid misuse prevention in primary care demands a multi-pronged approach which includes
education, risk assessment and behavioral approaches to pain,” said Dr. Glassman.
Existing research suggests that patient education can be helpful where chronic pain
is concerned; The Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the US Department of Defense
recommend patient and family education as part of their practice guidelines for the
management of opioids for chronic pain. In addition, the US Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration notes that providing patients with culturally sensitive
and linguistically appropriate education can help improve health outcomes in myriad
ways by: improving treatment adherence; promoting realistic expectations to increase
treatment satisfaction and enhancing patient’s feelings of self-efficacy.
CP-FOE is supported by funding from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation’s Supporting
Treatment and Opioid Prevention (STOP) Initiative, which aims to increase access to
evidence-based opioid use disorder prevention and treatment.
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About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands
of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists
who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms.
PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic
medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in
applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic
medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, non profit leadership
and population health management, organizational development and leadership, physician
assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration.
PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service
to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care
to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.
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