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CU Drug Abuse Prevention Program Gets Boost For Opioid Education

A national cooperative bank is the latest group to join Colorado's effort to curb opioid abuse.

CoBank is donating $500,000 to the University of Colorado's Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. The two-year grant will create continuing education materials on opioid and prescription drug abuse. The goal is to educate physicians and other medical providers, on the front lines of the health crisis on a range of related topics, from the scope of the opioid crisis to safe opioid prescribing practices.

"If you're going to prescribe it, here's the guidelines, and here's the guardrails, and here's things you should do to better," said Dr. Robert Valuck, director of the Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and professor of pharmacy at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy. "To use best practices to manage your patients and don't let things go haywire."

The grant also provides training to qualifying medical providers allowing them to receive a special waiver from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to prescribe medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT uses methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone to treat patients with opioid use disorders.

The number of Colorado doctors licensed to prescribe buprenorphine and other medication-assisted treatments has grown by 400%, according to Valuck. There are now about 1,500 providers with a waiver from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency across the state.

"Medical professionals are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic," Valuck stated. "We believe that physician education plays a key role in helping to prevent the misuse of opioids and other prescription drugs and, ultimately, will help to reduce rates of dependency and death."

In 2018, drug overdose deaths in Colorado fell for the first time in six years. Statewide, 974 people died from drug overdoses last year, which is a 38% drop from the state's record of 1,012 deaths in 2017.

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