We’re leading the fight against opioid addiction

Opioid addiction is a national crisis. Many individuals who become addicted were initially prescribed opioids to help manage their pain. Some got access to someone else’s opioid prescription. Others sought out an illegal variety of opioids.

With these highly addictive drugs readily available, opioid use can quickly lead to misuse, addiction and, too often, overdose. Overdose deaths involving opioids increased four times from 1999-2011. Today, an average of 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Edward-Elmhurst Health is taking a lead in the fight against opioid addiction. In spring 2016, we launched an Opioid Task Force — including representatives from medical staff, behavioral health and pain management — to address the growing epidemic.

Since then, we’ve implemented several initiatives aimed at reducing opioid addiction in the community and helping those with opioid use disorder get their lives back. Some of these initiatives include:

  • Alternative approaches to treating pain
  • Medication Take-Back program for safe disposal of opioids
  • An at-home medication disposal option
  • Medication-assisted therapy to overcome opioid addiction

Using alternative approaches to treat pain

Addiction to opioids often begins with a prescription. Physicians prescribe opioids to help manage pain, but overprescribing has become a problem. The number of annual opioid prescriptions written in the U.S. is roughly equal to the number of adults in the country. Overprescribing highly addictive medications like opioids can quickly lead to misuse. Since 1999, more than 183,000 people in the U.S. died from prescription opioids. Thousands more are at risk.

Recognizing the need to find other ways to treat pain, Edward-Elmhurst Health is participating in the Midwest Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) project, which is being run collaboratively between the Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin Hospital Associations. 

Through the ALTO project, we are adopting non-opioid pain alternatives in our Emergency Departments as a first-line therapy for patients with specific pain conditions, with opioids prescribed only as a second-line treatment option. The goal is to effectively treat acute pain while reducing the administration of highly addictive opioids.

To date, Edward-Elmhurst Health is one of only two health systems in the Chicago area participating in the ALTO project. In the future, we’re looking to implement ALTO initiatives in our Pain Clinics and across our health system.

Making it easier to dispose of dangerous medications

About 62 percent of teens who admit taking medication for non-medical reasons say they get drugs from medicine cabinets in their homes. Leftover opioid medications can be misused. Also, unwanted drugs can end up in our lakes, rivers, streams and drinking water. Imagine how many lives could be saved if leftover medications were disposed of properly.

Medication Take-Back program

In January 2019, we launched a Medication Take-Back program to provide accessible, safe places for community members to dispose of dangerous medications. Simply drop your unused, unwanted or expired controlled medications in one of our secure medication disposal bins at any time (24/7/365).

Bins are located at both Edward Hospital (near the South Lobby, in the walkway between the South parking garage off Osler Drive) and Elmhurst Hospital (in the vestibule of door 28 to the right of the Emergency Department main entrance). In 2019, we collected over 530 pounds of discarded medications across both hospitals.

An at-home medication disposal option

In January 2020, we are launching an opioid denaturing packet initiative, an in-home medication disposal option for patients and community members. It’s a simple three-step process to deactivate leftover drugs in order to prevent drug misuse and protect the environment. 

Through a donation from the RX Abuse Leadership Initiative, we received 30,000 medical disposal packets. Half of the packets are being provided to certain patients with specific needs. The other half are being distributed free-of-charge to the general public through the outpatient pharmacy at Edward Hospital.

Helping individuals overcome opioid use disorder

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are so intense that it can be difficult for someone to even get started on the road to addiction recovery. Our Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) Clinic provides medication that suppresses withdrawal symptoms and stifles cravings for the drug, while therapy is used to address the underlying trigger for the drug use.

With the withdrawal symptoms and cravings controlled, a patient can focus on getting well. The program involves medical supervision by specially trained and licensed doctors, regular drug testing and group therapy. This approach has been successful in helping people get their lives back from opioids, with significantly lower relapse rates.

MAT Clinic services are available without a physician’s order to anyone who wants to begin the process of change. A patient can start at the Clinic, or move there after an inpatient, residential or outpatient treatment program at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

Additionally, we are now initiating MAT in our Emergency Departments as well. For patients who come to the ED having had an opioid overdose, getting MAT started in the ED significantly improves outcomes. For many patients, it is life-changing. Learn more about how MAT can break opioid addiction.

Offering the next step to getting your life back

It’s incredibly difficult to overcome opioid addiction on your own. Linden Oaks Behavioral Health sees hundreds of patients with opioid use disorder come through our doors every year. We can help you (or someone you love) get your life back.

Fill out this assessment request form online and one of our team members will contact you.

You can also call our Opioid Crisis Hotline at 630-599-7696 and we can help you figure out your next step.

Want to find out your risk for addiction? Take our free online AddictionAware Risk Assessment.