pain pill prescription

Pain Pill Addiction is a Real Risk

Posted on 08/15/17 by Allied Anesthesia


By Dr. Peter Sawras

In 1980, the New England Journal of Medicine published a letter stating, “We conclude that despite widespread use of narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of drug addiction.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with 52 thousand overdoses, narcotic drugs were the leading cause of accidental death in 2015. Nearly half of these deaths involved a prescription medicine. Over 250 million prescriptions were written for narcotics—enough for each U.S. resident to have a bottle. As a patient, you should be concerned. If half of these accidental deaths are medical patients hooked on pain pills, that means the chance of addiction is not rare.

As an anesthesiologist, I am concerned because narcotic drugs are traditionally the first line in pain management for surgery. The risks from strong opiate pain medicines like morphine have not always been clearly understood. The benefits of these medications for patients undergoing surgery have been perceived to outweigh the risks.

Fortunately, over the last decade, physician anesthesiologists have been implementing alternative and complimentary methods of pain management for surgical patients. Examples include ultrasound-guided nerve blocks, pain pumps, multimodal analgesia and enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols. In the next post, I will describe some of these pain management methods and give examples of surgeries where they can be used. Find out which method could benefit you in your next recovery from surgery.

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