4 in 5 people say they want to avoid opioids after surgery

  • Opioids are responsible for 70% of overdose deaths in the United States
  • A new survey finds that after surgery, many people prefer to avoid taking opioids, but they don’t think that’s an option.
  • Experts say there are other pain management options for many people if they want to avoid opioids after certain surgeries.
  • Reducing the use of opioids to manage pain after surgery can help reduce the potential for dependence and addiction.

Opioid addiction continues to take its toll in the United States. More than 70% of overdose deaths in 2019 – or more than 49,000 deaths – involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As a result, experts have tried to find ways to limit people’s exposure to opioids after medical treatment to reduce the potential for dependence and addiction.

Now, a new online survey conducted by Orlando Health reveals that many people in the United States also want to avoid taking opioids after surgery if possible.

Almost 80 percent of survey respondents believe opioids are needed to manage pain after surgery, but almost 70 percent would avoid these drugs if better options were available.

The investigation was conducted between October 19 and 21. It included 2,006 American adults aged 18 and over.

The investigation comes after the deadliest year for drug overdoses.

Robert Glatter, MD, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, pointed out that 2020 broke the record for fatal overdoses, with more than 93,000 deaths in the United States amid the fallout from the COVID-pandemic. 19.

“The isolation and hopelessness brought on by the pandemic has led to skyrocketing rates of depression and anxiety, compounded by job losses,” Glatter said, “which left people at higher risk for drug overdose “.

Medical experts are exploring how to help patients avoid pain without depending on opioids.

Yili Huang, DO, director of the Pain Management Center at Northwell Health’s Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, New York, said opioids include some of the strongest pain relievers we have, but they aren’t. not necessary to treat all post-surgical pain for each patient.

Huang explained that surgical pain management plans can be made between the anesthesiologist, surgeon, and patient to reduce or even avoid the need for opioids.

“These plans often include alternatives such as safe and effective ways to block the nerve that can transmit pain from surgery with numbing drugs, and the use of non-opioid pain relievers, such as appropriate anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen (Tylenol), as well as drugs for nerve pain, ”he said.

Huang said that wanting to avoid opioids after surgery is “absolutely justified.”

He pointed out that opioids are just one class of pain relievers that treat pain in a very specific way, and while opioids are effective in the right cases, there are many other pain management options.

“Let’s not forget the pain and sensation response based on a complex interplay of different signals, nerves and emotional experiences,” Huang said. “Using different treatment strategies to target the many different areas of this complex pathway not only makes sense, but it is also safe and effective. “

However, Huang pointed out that some larger and more complex surgeries may still require opioids for postoperative pain.

“In addition, some patients who take opioids regularly may continue [to] require opioids for post-surgical pain, ”he said.

“What is certain, however, is that most surgeries do not require as many opioids as they have in recent decades, and that these opioid excesses have contributed to the opioid epidemic,” he said. he added.

Huang also said that using “all the tools at our disposal” to manage surgical pain and being judicious in prescribing postoperative opioids are important parts of proper postoperative pain management and recovery.

“It is very important for us to keep in mind that people have pain and that people need to control their pain. The solution isn’t just to keep opioids away from people and leave them to fend for themselves, ”Luke Elms, MD, general surgeon at Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, said in a statement.

“It is a real problem after surgery that must be treated with compassion,” he continued.

Elms has a protocol in place using common over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and muscle relaxant drugs.

Used together, these drugs can provide powerful pain relief that targets specific areas of pain more, rather than the broad coverage offered by opioids.

According to Elms, the protocol also helps patients recover faster without the side effects associated with opioids, such as nausea, dizziness, and constipation.

Glatter said that if the use of prescription opioids like oxycodone is responsible for many deaths, it is the availability of illegal opioids containing fentanyl bought online which are probably responsible for more overdoses.

Some people may have developed an opioid addiction after being prescribed opioids by a doctor, and may then switch from prescription pills to illegal drugs like heroin and synthetic fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine,” Glatter noted. “Due to the higher potency, there is a higher risk that someone will stop breathing and have cardiac arrest.”

Glatter added that the increased availability of synthetic opioid derivatives of fentanyl is an “alarming trend”.

“Recent studies confirm what we see in the emergency room: patients requiring increasingly large doses of naloxone to reverse the respiratory depressant effects of these powerful synthetic drugs, ”he said.

A new survey from Orlando Health finds that most people would rather use opioid alternatives after surgery if better options were available.

Experts say the pandemic has seen an increase in the number of overdose deaths linked to opioid abuse, making 2020 the deadliest year for drug overdoses.

They also say that there are safe and effective options for these powerful drugs that avoid not only the risk of addiction, but also the side effects of opioids like nausea, dizziness, and constipation.

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