It is no secret that opioid addiction is an epidemic that has been sweeping our nation, leaving behind ruined lives, fractured families, and a massive overdose-related death toll in its wake. It is important to note that the opioid crisis is not necessarily new, but that it has now grown to unprecedented heights, with opioid-related deaths exceeding those related to car accidents, HIV, and gun violence.

Given the reach and complexity of this crisis, it is becoming more and more apparent that there is no single way to put it to an end — though many legislators have given it a try.

However, in spite of the hurdles that have emerged, it is important to clarify that this situation is not hopeless. Instead, for every obstacle that has presented itself, lawmakers and medical providers have made strides in combatting the opioid crisis.

With that in mind, let us take a moment to recognize the life-saving programs that have surfaced throughout the brunt of the opioid epidemic.

Employing risk assessment technology

Many healthcare providers and payer organizations have employed the help of well-known IT tools — such as data analytics and predictive modeling — to identify patients who carry a high risk of opioid addiction and overdose. By following these vetting processes, healthcare providers may be able to more effectively intervene in these situations, thus preventing more unnecessary, drug-related deaths.

Improving prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)

Over the past several years, nearly every state has launched their own tailored version of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which were designed to track the number of controlled substance prescriptions in a given state.

However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has made it a point to state that PDMPs are not merely “passive databases.” Instead, “PDMPs can be used by state health departments to understand the behavior of the epidemic and inform and evaluate interventions.”

Additionally, with the updates that have been made to the system over the past year alone, these databases are easier to access than ever before — meaning more healthcare providers and their assistants can access the PDMP system to ensure all patients are registered and tracked accordingly.

Establishing community-centered programs

Sometimes, the best way to combat such a pervasive epidemic is by employing the help of the communities that addicts and victims belong to. This includes raising awareness of the opioid crisis, disseminating information about state laws that encourage intervention, and mobilizing communities by giving them the tools necessary to combat such a crisis on the ground level.

If you or a loved one are suffering from an opioid addiction, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA’s National Helpline is free, confidential, and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. SAMHSA provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and other community-based programs.