A team of physicians at Northwell Health (New York) has joined forces with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and the Mayo Clinic in the battle to fight painkiller addiction. The goal is to study the effectiveness of two separate educational approaches that may decrease the risk of opioid abuse.
The study is being funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Northwell Health will receive $350,000 in funding over the course of 3 years.
The study focuses on patients who receive opioids for pain management during hospital visits. The plan is to study a total of 1,200 patients who visit emergency rooms suffering from kidney stones or lower back pain. Patients suffering from such conditions have oft been prescribed opioid painkillers for relief. However, anti-inflammatory medicine can work equally well.
The education will be given in one of two forms. One, a self-report questionnaire that will evaluate a patient’s risk (low-high) for painkiller addiction. Two, a similar questionnaire which also includes a narrative video of a patient who began abusing opioids after being given a prescription.
Subsequently, the decision to use opioids or anti-inflammatory medication will be tracked upon discharge. Using this method, researchers can see if educating the patient about the dangers of opioids will prevent them from choosing this method of pain management.
Risk factors for painkiller addiction, as evaluated on the questionnaire, include individual and/or family history of alcohol or drug abuse. The videos provide personal stories of people who became addicted to opioids after a routine ER visit.
After the ER visit, patients will be asked to answer text messages about their medication use and pain level for 7 days. Then, responses slow to weekly for the next 90 days. They will also be asked about functionality, such as when they were able to resume their daily activities and/or return to work. At the end of the 90 days, a follow-up assessment will be provided to obtain the patient’s overall satisfaction level with pain management and functionality.
The objective of the study is to determine if and how much opioid medication a patient takes over the 3 months following their ER visit. The two interventions will then be be compared to see which was most effective.
The hypothesis is that persons who view personal narratives will take less opioids for less days without a pain increase. It is also speculated that these same people will return to their regularly activities and work sooner.
Simply put, this study could be incredibly beneficial in determining whether a personal awareness of opioid risks can help prevent painkiller addiction without hindering a patient’s quality of life.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology