According to the American Psychological Association (APA), America makes up less than five percent of the world’s population, yet we consume nearly one-third of the global supply of opioids. More often than not, this high use of opioids is an abuse of medication and street drugs rather than a healthy, prescription dose. According to the most recent information from drugabuse.gov, we are currently losing an average of 128 Americans every day from opioid overdoses. As this trend continues to devastate regions across the country, the APA‘s substance abuse page is pressing for more psychologists to become part of the solution by helping recovering patients deal with emotional trauma, and taking preventive measures, such as identifying at-risk patients, to combat the growth of this disease.
Frontier Nursing University (FNU) was founded with a vision to improve the healthcare of women and families in underserved populations. That’s why we are committed to training Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) to combat this tragic loss of life. As we continue to send healthcare professionals into areas hit hardest by this crisis, we hope you will consider joining our fight.
The Problem of Opioid Abuse and Infant Mortality in America
As the opioid crisis continues to devastate our nation, we often think of the young adults and middle-aged populations who have fallen prey to addiction. Unfortunately in doing so, we are overlooking a secondhand demographic that has also experienced significant suffering: infants.
As the Center for Disease Control explains on their page on substance abuse during pregnancy, the number of pregnant women with opioid dependency has quadrupled since 1999. As a result, the number of babies being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition where an infant shows symptoms of withdrawal as a result of the mother’s opioid dependence while pregnant, has increased at the same rate.
The most recent CDC data concludes that there is a NAS infant born every 15 minutes, adding up to the staggering number of around 32,000 babies a year. In addition to NAS, infants born to a mother with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), are prone to feeding issues, breathing difficulties, preterm birth, and low birth-rate.
Although it can be difficult to determine just how high the infant mortality rate has increased due to opioid use, we can see some definite patterns. According to a JAMA network study by Julie R Gaither PhD, MPH, RN, between 1999 and 2016, the infant mortality rate increased by 268.2 percent with 6.7 percent of all opioid deaths occurring in children ages 0-4. Similarly, Indiana, the state with the highest infant mortality rate recently conducted a study showing that 16 percent of at-risk infants had traces of opioids in their umbilical cords at birth.
The Impact of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners (PMHNP) in Fighting the Opioid Crisis
There can be many reasons that someone may begin to suffer from OUD, although according to a March of Dimes presentation, the most common of these include: community economic disadvantage, mental health problems, relational problems, and health conditions. Although a psychologist might not be able to control what medications someone’s healthcare provider recommends, they can be aware of health and community disadvantages that can put people at high risk and be prepared to help those demographics address these issues without turning to opioids. Additionally, when there are more licensed psychologists and other mental health providers in high-risk areas to help citizens deal with mental health and relationship problems, they could play a huge role in preventing future opioid use.
In an APA article titled How Psychologists Improve Care , Harvard psychologist Kathryn McHugh, PhD, discusses the importance psychologists can make in the treatment of opioid addiction. McHugh stresses that medication can treat the physical addiction, but the mental stresses that led to the initial addiction, as well as those resulting from extensive opioid use, also need to be addressed to avoid relapse. As McHugh explains, “It’s critical for people to also have behavioral interventions as needed. You need to treat the whole person to get them well.”
How You Can Become A PMHNP Through FNU
FNU has a long history of reaching underserved communities, and right now there is a desperate need for Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners throughout the country. If you are alarmed by the damage this disease is creating for individuals, families, and communities and are interested in providing relief for OUD ravished regions, consider FNU’s PMHNP program.
In an effort to meet you where you are, and reach at-risk communities faster, FNU offers two paths for achieving your PMHNP. You can apply for the PMHNP specialty track for registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree that are seeking a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or you can look into our Post-Graduate Certificate (PGC) track for Certified Nurse-Midwives and Nurse Practitioners. Both programs also give you the option to continue your studies and receive your Doctor of Nursing Practice.
Additionally, through our distance education model, your work will directly impact your community. The model allows you to complete your clinical practicum in your area, where you will study under preceptors who are well versed in the issues directly impacting your region. For more information on our PMHNP programs and the support FNU can offer you on your medical journey please visit our PMHNP page.
As the opioid crisis continues to rise throughout the country we hope that you will join us in fighting the horrors of OUD and NAS. The sooner we can get more dedicated professionals into the field treating recovering opioid users and preventing at-risk-cases, the sooner we will see a decrease in loss of life from opioid addiction and a healthier generation of infants entering our world. Together we can make a lasting impact on this crisis.