This course provides scientific and anecdotal information about the opioid epidemic, including contributing factors, progression of the problem, and efforts to address it. The course content is built around a 54-minute NOVA documentary on opioid addiction in the United States. The documentary presents several personal stories illustrating how subtle and innocuous the initiation of opioid use can be and how quickly it can develop into a problematic, addictive pattern that causes individuals to lose control—resulting in significant dysfunction and negative consequences. The film also highlights several interviews with industry professionals who highlight various socioeconomic and cultural factors that have contributed to the opioid epidemic, as well as neuroscientific explanations for how this highly addictive substance can lead to addiction and even death. Additionally, the film explores several promising medical and behavioral therapies for treating opioid addiction, as well as broader efforts to apply a more compassionate harm reduction approach and reduce stigma.
To complete the course, participants view the web-based NOVA documentary and read online content that includes an interactive exercise and two vignettes before passing the online posttest with a score of 80% or better to print a certificate of completion.
This presentation is designed for licensed or non-licensed, beginning to advanced social workers or other behavioral health practitioners working in any aspect of behavioral health and social services, including specialized mental health programs and specialized substance use disorder treatment programs.
After completing this course, readers will be able to do the following:
- Identify biological and environmental factors that increase vulnerability to developing opioid addiction along with socioeconomic factors that have contributed to the proliferation of the opioid epidemic.
- Identify specific regions of the brain affected by opioid use, and describe how drug use interferes with normal brain functioning.
- Identify various adverse consequences of opioid use to individuals, families, and communities.
- Describe science-based opioid treatment methods and their applications.
- Describe the limitations of an abstinence-based approach and advantages of harm reduction in addressing opioid addiction.