The Role of the Pharmacist in the Opioid Crisis

About the Course:
Pharmacists in multiple practice settings are confronted daily with the need to strike an ethically acceptable balance between appropriate treatment of a patient’s chronic pain and the avoidance of opioid addiction.  This course will provide pharmacists with an understanding of the disease state of opioid use disorder, how opioids affect the brain, and the benefits of medically-assisted treatment and harm-reduction approaches in certain populations of patients. Pharmacists will gain an understanding of appropriate pain management and current guidelines for the prescribing of opioids and will review ways that the safety of a patient’s opioid therapy can be evaluated and improved.  

Learning Objectives:
After completing this course, the learner will be able to: 
  • Describe the historical context of the opioid crisis, including trends in substance use globally and in the United States, as well as contributing factors to the opioid crisis in both health care and the community.
  • Describe key components of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain – United States, 2016, including appropriateness of opioid therapy, dosing considerations, and risk assessment of opioid use.
  • Describe the pathophysiology of opioid addiction and risk factors for opioid use disorder (OUD) and opioid overdose, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), criteria for OUD, and OUD screening tools.
  • Identify signs and symptoms of opioid toxicity and gain an appreciation for the role of naloxone, the drug that is able to reverse opioid overdose.
  • Describe techniques and strategies for engaging with patients who may be at high risk of opioid overdose, articulating how these patients may be introduced to naloxone and treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) as well the pharmacist’s ongoing role in public health, health care, and community teams to reduce the impact of the opioid crisis.
About the Author:
Laura Palombi, PharmD, MPH, MAT is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy in Duluth. Her teaching, clinical practice, and research focus on community engagement to address the opioid crisis. She is a clinical consultant on the Carlton County Drug Court Team and is an active member of nearly a dozen rural community coalitions to address the opioid crisis. She is the incoming chair of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Substance Use Disorder Special Interest Group and has authored numerous publications focused on opioid use disorder prevention, intervention and curricula. She was honored with the American Public Health Association’s 2018 Community Leadership award through the Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs Section.

How to receive credit:
  • A minimum test score of 75 percent is needed to obtain a credit.
Activity Type - Knowledge-based

Target Audience - Pharmacists, Pharmacists Technicians


  • Contact hours will be awarded through the expiration date.
  • You must score 75% or higher on the final exam and complete the course evaluation to pass this course and have your record of completion submitted through CPE Monitor and to the NABP.
  • Through our review process, Elite ensures that this course content is presented in a balanced, unbiased manner and is free from commercial influence. It is Elite's policy not to accept commercial support.
  • All persons involved in the planning and development of this course have disclosed no relevant financial relationships or other conflicts of interest related to the course content.