The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Conceptualizing solutions to the opioid crisis

(Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

Participants at Hancher’s Stanley Café came together Thursday evening to hear about the opioid crisis sweeping the nation and discuss ways to combat the issue.

The evening, which was part of the “Science on Tap” series, featured presentations and small-group discussion on tactics to help with opioid-related issues.

The community-engagement event was a follow-up of the “Opioid Ideas Lab” April 9-11, in which 30 academics representing eight University of Iowa colleges gathered to discuss the daunting opioid crisis and ponder potential solutions and strategies.

Aaron Kline, the research development coordinator for the University of Iowa Office of Research and Economic Development, described the Opioid Ideas lab as a three-day, intensive, structured, and creative brainstorming activity. Kline said the participants broke up into teams throughout the three days before presenting their ideas to the group.

RELATED: UI research leads to road map for combating opioid crisis

“The ultimate outcome of the Ideas Lab itself was to harness the creative intellectual energy here on campus to come up with some new and unique ideas,” Kline said. “It was bringing together disciplines from across campus and facilitating conversations with them to approach the opioid crisis from interdisciplinary aspects.”

Several ideas were developed to help with the rise in opioid-related problems.

“One [of the ideas] was looking at big data and real-time data monitoring so that we can understand what’s going on in the public and where people are overdosing,” UI Clinical Professor of emergency medicine Christopher Buresh said.

Outreach and services focused on these areas. For example, because fentanyl-laced heroin is a major cause of overdoses, Buresh said, he wants people to be able to come in and test their drugs for purity.

“There’s another project looking at the mechanism of addiction and what makes people susceptible — we know about 15 percent of people are really susceptible to addiction, and others are more averagely susceptible,” he said.

Another idea looked at screening patients receiving opioid pain medications.

UI Professor of mathematics Bruce Ayati, who participated in the three-day Ideas Lab, was involved with discussing the mechanisms of opioid use, which focused on the epigenetics and microbiomes related to factors that influence addiction.

RELATED: Experts talk solutions to opioid crisis in Iowa

“It was in aspects to the physiology and in particular the microbiomes in your gut bacteria,” Ayati said.

On Thursday, Buresh gave a greater overview of the issue at the focus.

He said 90 people die per day of opioids, and the drugs have killed more Americans than in the Vietnam War. He said in 2017, there were well more than 200 opioid-related deaths in Iowa. Buresh said the CDC estimates Iowa will possibly be one of the states with the largest increase in deaths in the next few years.

Afterwards, participants discussed possible solutions to issues related to opioids. This was modeled as a shorter version of the “Opioid Ideas Lab.”

Some of the ideas presented included increasing screening of patients requesting prescription pain medication, public-service announcements, increased education in schools on drugs, and more.

The Opioid Ideas Lab and community-engagement event were sponsored by the Research Office.

“I think this is one way we are able to showcase the knowledge we have here on campus and really try to make a difference in lives,” Kline said.

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About the Contributor
Julia DiGiacomo, Politics reporter
Julia DiGiacomo is a politics reporter and digital producer at The Daily Iowan. She is a junior majoring in journalism and international relations with a Spanish minor. Throughout her freshman year, Julia worked as a news reporter with a focus on the human rights beat.