New Jersey ER First to Forego Opioids for Pain Management
St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in New Jersey is now the first hospital emergency room in the nation to develop a program which approaches patient pain management without using prescription opioid painkillers.
It is believed that over-prescribing of opioid painkillers has led to the drastic increase in overdose fatalities, as well as the uptick in illicit opioid use, such as heroin.
According to Dr. Mark Rosenberg, Emergency Department Chair, oxycodone, vicodin and percocet were among the most often used. Rosenberg:
“Our job here together is to look at the whole equation and understand how we can stop people from going from a prescription, to an addiction.”
Lawmakers, law enforcement and health officials met at St. Joseph’s recently to discuss how to curb the growing opioid addiction problem. U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ):
“Everybody is at this table that should be, except for a few other people. We need the pharmaceuticals here, because they’re shoving drugs down our throats.”
St. Joseph’s Emergency Department is one of the busiest in the county, and has already initiated the change by treating more than 250 patients in pain with alternative medicine and/or other treatments. Opioids will still sometimes be used by St. Joseph’s medical staff to treat severe pain, but administering painkillers will not be necessarily be the first approach to pain management.
“We have to acknowledge the fact that opioids are an essential drug to managing people with severe pain, like cancer pain.”
A federal bill is currently pending, known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. It seeks to provide federal funding to local and state government to battle the nationwide heroin and opioid addiction and overdose epidemic. While it passed the Senate this month, it has not been voted on in the House.
Just a few weeks ago, the CDC issued a warning to physicians, asking to avoid addiction, they refrain from prescribing opioids only in very extreme cases – these include end-of-life or last-resort for severe or chronic pain.
Also, if physicians feel they must prescribe them, they should only be used for a few days and in limited doses based on CDC recommendations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drug overdose fatalities in 2014 eclipsed any other year on record, killing more people – 47,000 – than both car accidents and guns.
Also, in 2012, 260 million opioid prescriptions were written, enough place a bottle of pills in the hands of every person in the nation.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
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