Throughout this more than challenging and traumatic year, the work of CSIP and its partners to protect families and communities from the dangers of illegally obtained or inappropriately used opioids and other medications has never been more important. In particular, the social, emotional, and economic impacts of the pandemic have made those at risk of, or suffering from addiction diseases, all the more in danger. In our blog on Economic Distress and Opioids we shared how deaths from suicide, drugs, and alcohol or “deaths of despair” have been on the rise.
We also shared the importance of the American public reporting medications promising treatment of the “Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019” (COVID-19) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at [email protected]. Our VerifyBeforeYouBuy.org also served as a resource for those seeking to verify medications online amidst the global coronavirus pandemic.
As the year comes to a close, we pause to reflect on other stories we have shared in our CSIP blog. Here are a few highlights/trends that stood out:
“Technology Companies Come Together to Support Addiction Recovery During COVID-19”
This past April, CSIP and a coalition of tech leaders Google, Facebook and Twitter announced their effort to join forces on a new online platform TechTogether.co. The site is a collection of resources to help those experiencing substance use disorder or battling addiction and the associated stigma. During this time of CDC-recommended “social distancing” for COVID-19, the need for online resources is even more imperative. An increasing number of recovery support meetings and in-person recovery resources have been suspended due to shelter-in-place orders. Each technology partner provides a unique offering on TechTogether.co, creating a wealth of resources and tools for those seeking support online.
“Drug Take Back Day Collects Almost One Million Pounds of Medications”
This past fall, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) held its 19th National Take Back Day to encourage the safe and anonymous drop off and disposal of unused prescription medications. The October 24th event, which had 4,153 participating law enforcement officers and 4,587 drop off sites, collected 985,392 pounds. Since the event first started, the DEA and partners have collected almost 14 million pounds of unneeded medications. CSIP and partners, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, through the Tech Together initiative united to support this year’s efforts. The partners utilized their platforms to provide information through a personalized automated Facebook messenger experience, custom Twitter emoji, and Google mapping tools for families and individuals wanting to safely dispose of unused medicines. These tools are available year around to support this effort.
“COVID-19 and Opioids: Overcoming Challenges to Protect Those In Need”
The dispensing of methadone at opioid treatment centers requires in-person attendance for regulating dosing. Yet, with social distancing guidance in place, the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released guidance that offered some flexibility around either 14 or 28-day take home doses for stable patients. Remote support via telehealth, while previously on the rise, is now rapidly taking off. A recent PBS News Hour article highlighted Hazelden Betty Ford, the largest nonprofit in the US specializing in substance use disorders. While the organization had been rolling out its virtual counseling program, RecoveryGo, it had to speed up its launch timeline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“CSIP Partnerships Help Consumers Save on Prescription Drugs”
Recognizing that Americans pay more for prescription drugs than any other developed country in the world, CSIP has long made it a priority to direct consumers towards reputable tools that can help them find safe and affordable sources for needed medications. This past summer, we made a change to our Save on My Meds initiative. In light of increased need during the COVID-19 pandemic, a collaboration with our partners, NeedyMeds.org and GoodRx.com, now connects consumers to even more support and resources. While saving money on medications is important, it all begins with making sure that any online pharmacies used to obtain prescriptions are safe and legitimate. In 2017, CSIP partnered with the states of North Carolina and Connecticut, as well as health service organizations, to offer the website VerifyBeforeYouBuy.org
“Tracking Illegal Opioid Sales Using Social Media Data”
Last February, the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the US Department of Health and Human Services awarded a contract for a research team to develop a “proof of concept machine-learning approach to detect illegal opioid sellers.” With every phone swipe and keyboard click, new data is created through tracking searches, sales, and social media conversations. Using machine-based learning and other artificial intelligence-based approaches to rapidly read and analyze this data can allow for monitoring and documenting patterns and trends. Although most illegal sales of opioids do not take place online, the government has recognized a need to continue efforts to curtail those sales that do happen. Finding ways to sift through all of the noise to find true transactions is a need – and the hope is that a tool can be developed to help with that.
“From Zero Tolerance to Compassion for Employees Suffering from Addiction”
With so many hours spent at work, it is essential to look at the role of the workplace in prevention and treatment. An article in the Human Resource Executive explored the efforts of Leidos to better support its employees with (or at risk of) addiction, or with family members with addiction – including taking a closer look at its own prescription drug plan and how refills are handled. Nationwide, also highlighted in the article, is headquartered in Ohio – the state with the second-highest rate of overdoses in the US (as of 2017). Nationwide has taken great strides to prevent opioid use and addiction, including helping to launch the Ohio Opioid Alliance and and training its managers to identify and support employees at risk or who already have a drug problem.
Get caught up by reading all of CSIP’s past blog posts and stay tuned to our social media channels for the latest news. CSIP wishes you a safe and healthy holiday season.
About the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP)
The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP), a non-profit organization founded in 2011 by the White House, represents the technology sector and commerce intermediaries including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Oath, UPS, PayPal, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and .Health. CSIP’s mission is to promote industry best practices as it relates to illegal online pharmacies, and educating consumers about safe purchasing of prescription drugs.