Opioid & Integrative Pain Management Education
The development and delivery of Synergy’s Opioid and Integrative Pain Management webinar series is in response to the painkiller’s rapid abuse and addiction and overdoses which have resulted in a serious public health problem in the United States. The effort to reduce the number of prescriptions doctors write for opioids fails to address the underlying problem of why so many prescriptions are written: one in three adults in the U.S. suffers from chronic pain.
Synergy’s Opioid and Integrative Pain Management webinar series helps both patients incapacitated by pain and physicians frustrated by lack of treatment options. These webinars will include a broad range of complementary and integrative approaches, including integrative medicine, lifestyle and diet modification, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, and psychosocial support. The goal is to encourage the exploration of alternative and non-narcotic approaches to relieving chronic pain without risk of addiction, then integrate them into conventional health care settings.
Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total "economic burden" of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive. Opioid overdose rates began to increase. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.1 That same year, an estimated 2 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 591,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (not mutually exclusive).
Additional data on the opioid crisis:
Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.
The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
Opioid overdoses in large cities increase by 54 percent in 16 states.
Project Activities and Objective
Synergy CME Resource Group conducts annual national conferences dedicated to the development and presentation of integrative continuing medical education. Specific focus is given to broadening the array of educational programs for medical subspecialties that are currently being under-served or overlooked. Unfortunately, hundreds of health care professionals are unable to attend these conferences due to limited time and, in the case of community and rural clinics, resources to commit to traveling. Synergy’s Opioid and Integrative Pain Management webinars provide online training, enabling health care professionals to participate anywhere a connection can be made. In addition, the virtual training will allow Synergy to expand to a broader group of health care professionals, both domestic and internationally.
Webinars are conducted four times a year and provided at no cost. The program gives priority to health care professional servicing low income areas of the country with highest rates of opioid-related deaths. Physical pain is often compounded by depression, poverty, social isolation, and traumatic life events.
Training is a live online educational presentation during which participants can submit questions and comments. Participants can clarify and focus on the parts that interest them most. This makes the training deeper and accelerated in comparison to other forms of presenting content online. Recordings are later re-purposed and redelivered in the form of video, audio, slides and transcripts. Interaction with Webinar attendees offers opportunities for social networking through the online educational experience shared by the participants. All webinars have a community portal or a post-webinar member group supported by Synergy to establish mutually beneficial relationships with fellow webinar attendees.
 CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality. CDC Wonder, Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2017. https://wonder.cdc.gov.
 Florence CS, Zhou C, Luo F, Xu L. The Economic Burden of Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse, and Dependence in the United States, 2013. Med Care. 2016;54(10):901-906. doi:10.1097/MLR.0000000000000625.
 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ). 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2016.