Ending addiction in our communities

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Two-thirds of Minnesota pharmacists have been trained at the University of Minnesota. That offers a huge opportunity on the frontlines of the opioid crisis.

Assistant professors Laura Palombi, Heather Blue, and Keri Hager, U of M College of Pharmacy, Duluth, are bringing the focus on fighting addiction to the classroom.

“By the time they leave the University of Minnesota, our pharmacists are going into communities with knowledge of the crisis, ready to hit the ground running,” says Blue.

For example, Hager worked with the UMD Medical School to put together an interprofessional class session where students from medicine and pharmacy come together to review opioid abuse case studies. That experience has triggered discussions about addiction stigma, how providers treat chronic pain, and the importance of community interventions to prevent opioid overdose.

“Opportunities that engage students in interprofessional dialogue ... will be critical to finding solutions to address the opioid epidemic when they go out into practice,” says Hager.

In fact, students are already getting involved. Some have helped plan community forums on the opioid crises, while others are attending Minnesota drug courts and researching its impact.

Second-year pharmacy student Parker Johnson is part of a team that is conducting research on drug court efficacy. He hopes the team will help illuminate treatment gaps, areas for improvement, and techniques that could be applied in programs across the state.

“Rather than telling people with addiction what we think is best for them, we’re asking: what can we fix?” he says.

Johnson has seen how addiction can consume lives. He grew up in a small town in West-Central Wisconsin, where he watched friends from high school battle opioid abuse and go on to abuse meth and other substances.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand how hard it is to quit, but I’m also seeing how the right atmosphere can help people get back on track,” he says.


This story originally appeared at Health.umn.edu.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities