U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified opioid use disorder as a national crisis. In August 2017, President Trump declared this a national emergency. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental injury among U.S. adults and rates of opioid related overdose has increased 200% between 2000 and 2014. Drug overdose has emerged as the leading cause of death for American’s younger than 50 years.
At the Annual Scientific Conference, NAALT 2018, in Detroit Michigan outlined several important roles for clinicians in combating the opioid epidemic with a focus on using photobiomodulation to breach the gap between opioid use and opioid free pain management. During the 2018 NAALT conference a call for clinicians to train to prescribe and utilize photobiomodulation therapy that can be used in conjunction with behavior therapy to treat opioid use disorder. Compared with many other non-pharmacological treatment of opioid use disorder photobiomodulation assisted treatment can be more effective in reducing opioid use; retaining patients in treatment and reducing the risk of the patient going back to using opioids. However, access to photobiomodulation therapy remains limited. Of the estimated 2.5 million adolescents and adults with opioid use disorder in 2012 only a small percentage received photobiomodulation therapy. Many physicians who know about photobiomodulation therapy do not prescribe it or use it in their practice. Reported barriers include insufficient nursing/office support; lack of institutional support; inadequately trained staff; insufficient time; inadequate office space; expensive equipment; lack of knowledge; and lack of reimbursement.
Most communities today are not currently able to meet the demand for treatment of opioid use disorder with photobiomodulation. However, clinicians and family physicians across this country can help fill this gap by beginning to study and understand the use of photobiomodulation therapy in the treatment of patients with opioid use disorder. Despite the fact that many clinicians do not have on-site photobiomodulation equipment these clinicians are able to refer patients to offices that do have the necessary knowledge, education, training and experiencing using photobiomodulation therapy to reduce and eliminate the use for opioid medications. Family physicians and healthcare clinicians work in a variety of settings with different levels of staffing and in communities with varying levels of potential external partners. At NAALT 2018 the National Conference we began the process of demonstrating to clinicians across this country the practical use of photobiomodulation therapy in opioid use disorder.
I trust that each of you will continue your quest for understanding this new science and to utilize this new science as part of your growing practice. For those of you who could not make the NAALT 2018 conference in Detroit, I strongly recommend that you attend the WALT 2018 conference in Nice, France. You still have time to make arrangements, get your tickets and attend this incredible once in a lifetime opportunity. I encourage you to join me and the board of directors of NAALT as we travel to Nice to continue this message of utilizing photobiomodulation therapy to cure opioid abuse disorder.
Terrance L. Baker, MD, MS, FAAFM, FAAEP
President – NAALT