“You’re Going to Feel Some Pain”: Doctors Respond to the Opioid Crisis

Is there anything more powerful than the fear of pain? We rush to make sure our kids don’t touch hot stoves. We put off trips to the dentist. We spend about $338 on over-the-counter drugs every year. We do whatever we can to avoid – or at least minimize – pain.

Our doctors are fully aware of this, and over the years, they have done whatever they can to help us avoid it, too. But the results of those pain-avoiding reactions have contributed to the opioid crisis in this country. Now, doctors are starting to push back, telling patients the one thing that no patient wants to hear: “You’re going to feel some pain.”

NPR recently interviewed Dr. Mike Schlosser, a spinal surgeon at the Centennial Medical Center in Nashville. Spinal surgery is some of the most painful surgery there is – and Dr. Schlosser knows it. He told NPR, “I just wanted my patient not to be in pain, thinking I was doing the right thing for them and certainly not [being] an outlier among my colleagues. But now looking back on it, I was putting them at significant risk for developing an addiction to those medications.”

To combat this trend, HCA (the country’s largest private hospital chain, which runs Centennial Medical Center) has decided to tell patients the truth: they are rolling back the amount and number of opioids they prescribe, and as such, patients will experience some pain during their recovery.

The signs look good that this new process can work

HCA is not the only one hoping to reduce opioid prescriptions and addictions. A group of surgeons at the University of Michigan is also cutting back on the number of opioid painkillers it will give to post-surgical patients. The group looked into 200 patients who were given an average of 75 milligrams of opioid painkillers (as opposed to 250, which was the original average) after surgery. They found that “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.”

There is another benefit to reducing the amount of opioids prescribed; it reduces or eliminates the side effects. Consistent opioid use has a number of side effects, which means patients are often prescribed more drugs to combat then. Those side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Sleep apnea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness, leading to increased risk of falls
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

Almost 64,000 people died in 2016 because of drug overdoses. Something has to be done. The work these doctors are doing shows us all a path forward, which may help Americans end the cycle of addiction before it even begins.

If you or someone you love is addicted to opioids, we want to help. Little Creek Lodge is a family owned and operated facility in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We offer comprehensive inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for young men who have already completed their detox program. Please call 570-630-9354, or fill out our contact form to learn more about our services.

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