Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Author: Rachel Kaul, LCSW, CTS, Senior Advisor for Behavioral Health, HHS/ASPR Emergency Management and Medical Operations Published Date: 5/6/2019 8:38:00 AM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; Observances;
Hurricane season is just around the corner. If you are thinking about ways to prepare for the next hurricane, take a moment to consider this: approximately 2.1 million people have an opioid use disorder according to the
National Survey on Drug Use and Health and over 47,000 of them died by overdose in 2017 according to a study by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After a hurricane, flood or other disaster, responders, emergency healthcare professionals, and disaster relief service providers face the challenge of considering the specific vulnerabilities of people struggling to manage treatment and recovery while meeting the increased needs of the community at large.
People in substance use recovery rely on healthcare systems and substance use and mental health treatment and recovery services that are frequently disrupted in a hurricane. When access to medication-assisted treatment, including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, is compromised, patients suffering from an opioid use disorder face potential health complications, such as the onset of rapid withdrawal symptoms and relapse.
If access to medication assisted treatment is restricted, individuals may seek out illicit opioids, such as heroin, to avoid experiencing withdrawal. The stress of managing the aftermath of a hurricane, flood or other disaster may result in more people with opioid use disorder reverting to illicit drug use to soothe their anxiety and distress, causing more instances of overdose and the necessity for rapid emergency medical treatment in shelters or in the community.
Here are five things you can do before a disaster strikes to prepare to help people who are suffering from opioid use disorder:
Responding to a hurricane while ensuring that you meet the needs of all members of your community, including those with opioid use disorder, is complex and challenging. By using these five strategies to enhance your disaster response plan, you and the members of your community will be better prepared to help individuals with opioid use disorders withstand the challenges of a natural disaster while helping their recovery efforts thrive.
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