Though the industry is taking great strides to fight opioid abuse, it remains a central issue in the pharmacy industry. As an independent pharmacist, managing opioid abuse has been a focal point in your pharmacy’s patient care.

While the industry is making tremendous progress, there is still a way to go. Opioid abuse still runs rampant nationwide, and patient care remains as vital as ever.

Since the opioid crisis is ongoing, it evolves and changes over time. Because of this, yesterday’s solutions don’t cut it anymore. Just like how you should keep your independent pharmacy up to date, you should update your methods toward handling opioid abuse.

Here is what you need to know about the ongoing opioid epidemic and how you can best combat it.

The Facts

As mentioned earlier, the opioid crisis has evolved over time. However, the impact has remained the same: opioid addiction negatively impacts families, independent pharmacies, and entire communities.

106,699 Americans died as a result of a drug overdose in 2021, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. 80,411 of those deaths involved opioids, meaning that roughly 80% of overdose deaths involved opioids.

It is an alarming figure, but hardly anything new. Opioid overdoses and deaths have drastically increased over the years. Overdose deaths involving opioids have gone up 519.38% from 1999 to 2019, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.

It’s important to know what symptoms of opioid abuse to look out for. Per the American Society of Anesthesiologists, signs of opioid abuse, withdrawal, or addiction include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Drug cravings
  • Chills (feeling cold)

It’s important to note that these symptoms aren’t exclusive to opioid abuse. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t make an assumption, especially if that assumption involves opioid abuse.

As we’ll explore in later sections, managing opioid abuse requires careful thought and consideration.

New Developments

One new aspect of the ongoing opioid epidemic is how people are overdosing. The main concern has less to do with prescription opioids and more with street drugs.

The most recent development in the opioid crisis is the recent uptick in fentanyl overdoses. More specifically, incidents occur where drug dealers supply fentanyl-laced pills.

Instances like this are becoming more common. More than 2,200 teens have fatally overdosed from July 2019 to December 2021, according to the CDC. Fentanyl was involved in about 84% of those overdoses.

The city of Carrollton, Texas, is experiencing an opioid crisis. At the time of writing, five adults in the North Texas area have been accused of trafficking fentanyl to children. These traffickers illegally gave fentanyl-laced pills to minors.

In a press release by the United States Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton raises awareness that “any pill not prescribed by a doctor could be lethal. One pill can kill.”

Granted, pharmacy work usually has little to do with extreme cases such as this. However, it’s essential to inform yourself of the current situation.

Whether it’s being more attentive to a patient’s fill history or informing the patients themselves, you and your pharmacy staff still play a vital role in the opioid epidemic.

What You Can Do

As an independent pharmacist, you are on the front lines of patient care. You’re directly interacting with them as you help guide them through their health journeys.

We mentioned earlier how not to make assumptions if you see a patient experiencing opioid abuse or withdrawal. This is where your pharmacy software system (hopefully PioneerRx) comes into play.

Use PioneerRx Features

Check your patient’s profile and check their fill history. Utilize your prescription monitoring program (PMP) capabilities to truly learn about your patient’s prescription history.

Specifically, look out for how frequently they are getting opioids. Another sign of opioid abuse is when a patient is dropping off prescriptions from multiple doctors. Contact their primary care physician or prescribing doctor immediately.

Once you better understand your patient’s opioid history, it’s time to have a conversation.

Patient consultations are a cornerstone of pharmacy work. It is the most direct and effective way to establish a relationship with your patients. Consultations help patients have an idea of where they’re going in their health journey.

Providing such guidance requires sensitivity, compassion, and true empathy. This especially applies to talking about opioid abuse.

This would be the perfect time to use PioneerRx’s Counseling app, letting you counsel your patients at any location within your independent pharmacy. It reinforces patient privacy and will make your patient feel safer to have this conversation.

Raise concerns about their fill history and learn why they’re taking the medication in the first place. The important part is to approach them calmly and kindly. That’s what patient care is all about — you need to be fair and kind but always firm.

Supply Naloxone

Naloxone is an absolute must-have for your independent pharmacy. It is a life-saving medication that does not require a prescription. With Narcan being recently approved for over-the-counter use, consider stocking it to help make it more accessible to your patients and their friends and family.

Provide Resources

As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, a well-informed patient inevitably becomes a healthier one. Whether it’s counseling them on their medications or answering any questions they have, you’re guiding them toward a sunnier healthy journey.

There is no shortage of resources to help with opioid abuse, both for you and your patients.

Resources for independent pharmacists include:

Offer the following resources to your patients:


As with many things in the pharmacy industry, tackling opioid abuse is a tightrope act. It is an essential aspect of patient care, even if it is an uncomfortable one.

Take the necessary steps to treat opioid abuse and addiction. With the help of PioneerRx pharmacy software and valuable online resources, you can help course-correct your patient’s health journeys.

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