AVMA webinars help veterinarians navigate opioid epidemic

The opioid crisis continues to worsen in the United States.

Overdose deaths remain a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States and have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 75% of drug overdose deaths in 2020 involved an opioid, totaling about 69,000 people. That’s compared with the 82,998 predicted opioid-involved drug overdose deaths in 2022.

Opioid pills being counted on a tray

Human opioid abuse affects veterinary providers in that they have a responsibility to keep these important drugs out of the wrong hands.

AVMA policy recognizes that health care providers administer and prescribe controlled substances, and accepts responsibility in contributing to solutions for the national opioid crisis. The AVMA supports, among other things, continuing education (CE) on judicious use, compliance, security, and prescribing of opioids and other controlled substances, with an emphasis on identifying and preventing human misuse and diversion. The latter is defined as the transfer of any legally prescribed controlled substance from the person it was prescribed to another person for any illicit use.

Which is why three updated webinars are being made available on AVMA Axon, AVMA’s digital education platform, that delve into these topics. Each webinar offers one hour of CE credit and is free for AVMA and Student AVMA (SAVMA) members. The cost is $25 for nonmembers.

The webinars also help to satisfy state veterinary licensing requirements for controlled substances and opioid training. To date, several state veterinary licensing boards require this training in order for veterinarians to maintain their licensure.

“The topic of opioids remains in the Top 10 most accessed and requested webinars on Axon,” said Dr. Deborah Stone, assistant director of continuing education at the AVMA. “Many veterinarians need this training in order to satisfy licensure requirements and these on-demand webinars may help to satisfy those requirements.”

The updated webinars offer relevant CE training on judicious use, compliance, security, and prescribing of these drugs. In addition, there is an emphasis on identifying and preventing human misuse and diversion.

The following webinars are available to watch at any time:

Drug-seeking clients: Recognize and prevent

This webinar covers the signs that can help veterinary staff members identify potentially concerning client behavior. Viewers also learn about prescribing and dispensing regulations and ways to help prevent diversion.

Opioids and drug diversion: Veterinary trends

Securing controlled substances at a practice is an important part of preventing drug diversion. Practitioners learn about opioid epidemic trends and some of the regulatory attempts that have been made to address drug diversion within practices.

Drug diversion regulations and compliance

Veterinary practices must comply with controlled substance regulations. This webinar teaches veterinary health care providers how to create a legally compliant process for controlled substance record keeping. It also explains what a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) is and identify potential pitfalls of the system.

Approximately 18 states have requirements for veterinarians to participate in PDMP programs, however, a few of those states have exemptions under certain circumstances. States also vary in which substances must be reported, the frequency in reporting, and whether the veterinarian has to search the database prior to prescribing.

A version of this story appears in the August 2023 print issue of JAVMA.