It is no secret that opioid abuse and addiction is a growing problem in the U.S. More than two million Americans abuse opioids today according the CDC, and 90 addicted patients die every day. Those numbers are staggering.
Several recent studies have concluded that there are ways to control the epidemic and reduce the number of deaths. It will take changing the practices of both physicians and patients along with effective education.
How We Got Here
Neither doctors nor patients knew how addictive opioids would be. This class of painkillers is used primarily after a surgical procedure. They include Oxycontin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen). What no one knew was that even taking opioids for less than two weeks can lead to physical dependence.
Doctors and surgeons were normally prescribing more than thirty pills after surgeries. Consequently this was more than enough to trigger addiction.
In addition, many post surgery patients who did not use all the prescribed pills left them unsecured in their medicine cabinet. This allowed family members and friend to “borrow” them or the patient actually gave them out when someone was in pain.
Changes Being Made By Physicians
Now that the medical community understands the seriousness of the addiction, they are making changes to both the amount of opioids prescribed and the dosage. Some surgeons are not prescribing them at all with certain procedures.
Other adjustments include:
- Many physicians are only prescribing opioids when a patient is in extreme pain.
- They are educating patients that their pain will be short-lived whether or not they take an opioid.
- Doctors are explaining to patients prior to certain surgeries that there will be some discomfort or soreness vs. extreme pain after surgery. Non addictive pain relievers like ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may be helpful instead of something stronger.
How Patients Can Avoid The Risk Of Opioids Abuse After Surgery
- If you don’t use all the opioids prescribed by your doctor, make certain they don’t get “pilfered” but are disposed of appropriately.
- Talk to Dr. Brett Sachse about what to expect after surgery. Will they be giving opioid medication and for how long?
- Be clear post surgery to identify whether you are experiencing severe pain, discomfort, or simply soreness.
- Ask Dr. Brett Sachse for some options to control and manage your pain.
- If you are in significant pain, ask for only a small amount of an opioid.
Opioids will continue to play a role in managing postoperative pain, but providing lower doses and for a shorter period of time will help to reduce the problems inherent in opioid addiction.
Everyone hopes that opioid addiction can be controlled by the current changes being initiated by our physicians working with an educated public.
Contact Dr. Brett Sachse at Surgical Consultants of Northern Virginia with questions about opioid addiction by calling (571) 512-5300 today.