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Preventing Opioid-Use Disorder

Opioid-use disorder is a disease, not a moral failing. Opioids, prescribed or illegal, can change the brain's chemistry and create a dependence. Through efforts to reduce over-prescribing of opioids using the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and Prescribing Guidelines, we are working to prevent the disorder.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Each prescriber and dispenser of opioids is required to participate in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Approximately 97,000 prescribers and delegates have registered with the PDMP. The program’s database has averaged over 1.1 million searches monthly since its inception – even achieving 53,000 searches on a weekday. Visit the PDMP website to learn more about the program.

Opioid Dispensations

A dispensation is either a new prescription or a refill of an existing prescription. This dataset provides county- and state-level counts and rates per 1000 population for all Schedule II-V opioid dispensations with and without buprenorphine on a quarterly basis. Buprenorphine is an opioid partial agonist that may be prescribed for opioid addiction or for treatment of pain. The PDMP does not collect any information related to a patient’s medical condition, including the reason a controlled substance was prescribed.
Number of Opioid Dispensations
by year
Number of Opioid Dispensations
by year per 1,000 people

Opioid Stewardship

Opioids are an important medication for the treatment of certain types of pain. The goal of opioid stewardship is to ensure that medical professionals have all of the education and training they need to judiciously prescribe this medication.  Through opioid stewardship, patients receive the right dosage and treatment protocol to prevent opioid-use disorder from starting.
Watch Dr. Ajay Wasan and Dr. Kevin McNeil talk about how they are helping patients taper off of opioids.
Prescribing Guidelines
The Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force has developed and implemented 10 opioid prescribing guidelines. By improving the way opioids are prescribed for pain, health care providers can ensure that patients have access to safer and more effective chronic pain treatment and help to reduce their risk of developing opioid-use disorder. Visit the prescribing guidelines website to see the 11 guidelines.
Medical Student Education
Anyone taking medical education in Pennsylvania must take opioid prescribing curriculum. The curriculum must include: current, age-appropriate information relating to pain management; alternatives to opioid pain medications; instructions on safe prescribing methods in the event opioids must be prescribed; identification of patients who are at risk for addiction; and training on managing substance use disorders as chronic diseases. View the Pennsylvania Medical Students Core Competencies.
Medical Provider Training
Pennsylvania physicians must take two hours of education in pain management, identification of addiction, or safe opioid prescribing in order to renew their medical license in 2018. 
The PDMP, in collaboration with the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the University of Pittsburgh's Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) has developed continuing educational curriculum for prescribers on best practices for using the PDMP system and on how to address substance use disorder with patients. Visit the PDMP website for Evidence-Based Prescribing: Tools You Can Use to Fight the Opioid Epidemic.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society has also developed a continuing education series to address Pennsylvania's opioid crisis. Visit the Pennsylvania Medical Society website for the online CME. 

Get Help Now PSA

Get Help Now PSA (Spanish)


Drug Take-Back Boxes

Throughout the state, there are 686 drug take-back locations. They are easy, convenient locations where anyone can dispose of their unused, expired or unwanted prescriptions.

Estimated Prevalence and New Diagnoses of HIV and HIV among Injection Drug Users by County (2012-2016)

Estimated Prevalence and New Diagnoses
of HIV and HIV among Injection Drug Users
New Diagnoses of HIV by County
(2012-2016)
Preventing Opioid-Use Disorder
Opioid-use disorder can lead to other infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C because of some risks associated with opioid use disorder. Sharing injecting equipment with other persons or trading sex for money or drugs substantially increase the risk of these infectious diseases.
HIV Surveillance Program
Laboratories and medical providers report data on new and on-going HIV and Hepatitis C to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. These data are used to estimate the number of new diagnoses and the number of persons living with HIV Disease in each county. The Department of publishes an annual report that provides more detailed analyses of these data and produces custom data analyses upon request. Visit the HIV Surveillance website to learn more about the program.

Get Help Now

Call 1-800-662-HELP 

Are you or someone you know suffering from a prescription drug or heroin problem? We can help. 
Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for information about treatment resources. Your call is completely confidential. This hotline, staffed by trained professionals, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is available in both English and Spanish.  Not comfortable calling? You can also text 717-216-0905 for assistance. 
Visit the Get Help Now website and search for care providers in your area or view local resources in your county.

Get Naloxone

Anyone in Pennsylvania can get life-saving naloxone from their local pharmacy.
Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine has signed a standing order prescription so that anyone in Pennsylvania can get naloxone. Download a copy of the naloxone standing order

Drug Take-Back

Drug take-back boxes are available across the state for residents to dispose of unneeded prescriptions.
The availability of drug take-back boxes gets unwanted or unneeded prescription drugs out of homes. Search for prescription drug take-back locations in your county by using either your zip code or your county.

Have a question or comment? Email RA-DHPRESSOFFICE@pa.gov.