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Surgeons Are Prescribing Fewer Opioids To Combat Addiction Risks

As you may already know, there is an opioid epidemic that is plaguing our nation.  I used to think that it was just those who voluntarily chose to take opioids for the high they wanted were the only ones who got addicted.  No, there are so many other ways that people are getting addicted.  
Did you know that there are those who may be opioid-naive and still become addicted?  How?  They may undergo surgery and are legally prescribed an opioid for post-surgery pain management.  

After surgery is the time when many people are first introduced to what can be highly addictive painkillers. This is a trend that is alarming the medical community.  To combat that problem, a group of surgeons at the University of Michigan have collaborated and devised an approach to help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic — starting at their own hospital.  
In a recent joint letter to healthcare providers, County Executive Steve Schuh and Health Officer Jinelene Chan are encouraging Anne Arundel County physicians to follow strict guidelines when prescribing opioids and other painkillers.
“We are counting on you as a prescriber to be part of the solution for your patients.  Most of our constituents with substance-use disorders began their path to addiction after forming dependencies to opioids prescribed as a result of an injury or other medical issue,” wrote the pair. “Their opioid dependence may have led to obtaining illegal street opioids like heroin, sometimes laced with fentanyl, after valid prescriptions ran out.”
“Opioid addiction has been deemed a “public health emergency” by the White House. It’s estimated to have claimed 64,000 lives in 2016 alone. And research shows that post-surgical patients are at an increased risk of addiction because of the medicine they receive to help manage pain during recovery.” 
Simply put, their proposed approach would be to  better educate the patients about the proper use of opioids and the associated risks, along with proscribing fewer pills after surgery.   This may seem like a small intervention, but it could lead to significant changes in how opioids are prescribed and make inroads against the current epidemic, said the researchers. Their findings were published in the journal JAMA Surgery.
“The way we’ve been prescribing opioids until this point is we’ve basically been taking a guess at how much patients would need,” said Jay Lee, a research fellow and general surgery resident at the University of Michigan, and one of the paper’s authors. “We’re trying to prevent addiction and misuse by making sure patients themselves who are receiving opioids know how to use them more safely — that they are getting a more consistent amount and one that will reduce the risk of them getting addicted.”
In their research, they identified 170 patients who underwent gallbladder surgery and surveyed them within a year of the operation.  
    they asked them how many pills they actually used
    they asked them what pain they experienced after surgery 
    they asked them whether they had used other painkillers, such as ibuprofen.
With their findings they were able to create new hospital guidelines that cut back on the standard opioid prescription for gallbladder surgeries.
Then, they analyzed how patients fared under the new approach, tracking 200 surgery patients who received substantially fewer pills — an average of 75 milligrams of opioid painkillers, specifically oxycodone or hydrocodone/acetaminophen. Previously, the average dose was 250 milligrams.
Despite getting less medication, patients didn’t report higher levels of pain, and they were no more likely than the previously studied patients to ask for prescription refills. They were also likely to actually use fewer pills.
The takeaway: After surgery, patients are getting prescribed more opioids than necessary and doctors can reduce the amount without patients experiencing negative side effects.
Within five months of the new guidelines taking effect at Michigan’s University Hospital, surgeons reduced the volume of prescribed opioids by about 7,000 pills. It’s now been a year since the change took effect, and the researchers estimate they have curbed prescriptions by about 15,000 pills, said Ryan Howard, a general surgery resident and the paper’s lead author.
The reduction has real implications.  
By doing the following things, the medical community is taking great strides to help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic.
  1. Encouraging patients to use lower-strength, non-addictive painkillers first
  2. Warning them about the risks of addiction
  3. Reminding them that even a sufficient opioid prescription would leave them feeling some pain.
“So much of this problem can be addressed with solutions that are not complicated,” said Julie Gaither, an instructor at Yale School of Medicine. 
If you or a loved one are going to go through surgery or have recently undergone a surgery , please be aware of the risks involved and take precautions against the potential of developing an opioid addiction.  If you or a loved one have fallen into this trap, please know that there is hope.  At Life Transformation Recovery, we offer faith-based, clinically proven addiction treatment to help you step away from drugs and find the path to sobriety. We believe that coupling experienced counselors with your own spiritual growth strengthens you and helps ensure a longer, more stable recovery from substance abuse. Contact us today at (844) 582-FREEDOM for more information.

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