My Turn

Opinion: Seek non-opioid alternatives to address addiction crisis

By Andy Jones, Taos Alive Coalition
Posted 2/21/19

As the opioid epidemic rocks our community, Taos Alive is working to reduce the incidence of substance abuse.

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My Turn

Opinion: Seek non-opioid alternatives to address addiction crisis

Posted

As the opioid epidemic rocks our community, Taos Alive is working to reduce the incidence of substance abuse. Many people who fall prey to addiction didn't begin taking opioids to "get high." Millions of Americans use prescription opioids for their intended purpose, to relieve pain, only to become physically dependent. The transition from medical use to long-term addiction can be a real problem among older people.

Moving our health care system toward safer, non-opioid pain therapies would reduce dangerous opioid exposure. Widespread prescribing of opioid-free alternatives would also limit the quantity of opioids sent into our communities, where they can be misused, often by schoolchildren, or redirected to the black market.

Unfortunately, some patients today don't have access to FDA-approved non-opioid painkillers after surgery. In fact, an update to payment rules by the Medicare agency overlooked beneficiaries undergoing outpatient procedures. Medicare now incentivizes non-opioid pain relievers for inpatient surgery, such as hip replacements. But Medicare patients who need arthroscopic surgery, hernia repairs or other procedures performed on an outpatient basis are still subject to the old rules. The vast majority will be prescribed opioids for post-surgical pain relief.

Six percent of patients treated with opioids after surgery will become persistent users, so physicians should be empowered to avoid opioids whenever possible. The good news - several elected leaders are examining possible legislation to ensure Medicare incentivizes non-opioid pain relievers in all surgical settings, so more patients could soon be protected.

Andy Jones

Rx/Opioid Abuse Prevention Workgroup

Taos Alive Coalition

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