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New Jersey Hospital Becomes First to Stop Using Opioids for Pain Management

“I have no problem with opioids. I have a problem with the way we use them.”

Via cc (Image credit: Frankie Leon)

A New Jersey hospital recognizes the role health care providers are playing in driving America’s deadly opiate epidemic — which claimed the lives of almost 30,000 people in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and now is doing its part to prevent narcotic abuse before it starts. For patients battling serious illnesses like cancer, opiates may be the only course of action to relieve pain; however, emergency room doctors at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson don’t want to render them the only line of defense.

“In many cases, we’re exposing people to opioids when we don’t need to be,” Andrew Kolodny, director of the nonprofit Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, told The Daily Mail.

The emergency room at St. Joseph’s, the busiest ER in the state, has been using opioid alternative protocols since January with major success. Treating prescription painkillers solely as a last resort, the Alternative to Opiates (ALTO) program managed to help 75 percent of the 300 patients who came through without the use of any narcotics at all, and turned instead to non-opioid painkillers and physical therapy, among other things, for pain management. Excluded from ALTO are patients suffering from chronic pain who are already dependent on opioids.

Opioids should not be taken lightly — or for that matter, prescribed lightly. Their potential for abuse is very high, as is the possibility of patients on them resorting to heroin after their legal narcotics run out. Someone who’s been forthright about the pressing need of doctors to prescribe fewer opioid drugs is Sergey Motov, an associate research director at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center.

He told The Mail: “I have no problem with opioids. I have a problem with the way we use them: unintelligently, without understanding them. We need to talk to patients. The patient needs to be given an option. … we just blindly give them medication and hope they feel better.”

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