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Colorado hospitals’ pilot project to reduce opioid prescription raises new hopes

Colorado hospitals’ pilot project to reduce opioid prescription raises new hopes

02-28 | CDAH Team

Doing their bit to help curb the opioid epidemic, the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) launched a pilot across 10 emergency departments (ED) with the aim to reduce the number of opioids prescribed. The Colorado Opioid Safety Pilot, which spanned a six-week period, followed doctors, nurses and pharmacists, who made a conscious effort to prescribe a less addictive alternative to opioids (ALTO). The treatment guideline followed was developed by the Colorado Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (Colorado ACEP).

The preliminary success rates the pilot achieved surprised the experts. There was a 36 percent reduction in opioid administration, more than double of the 15 percent that the researchers had expected. Eric Olsen, an emergency physician at the Medical Center of the Rockies was elated that a good and feasible way to successfully administer treatment to patients with painful conditions was finally here.

Opioid use replaced by ALTO

According to Jamie Teumer, an emergency physician with UCHealth, one of the participants in the pilot, the project was aimed at encouraging the use of ALTO to bring relief to patients suffering from immense pain. It was a known fact that many people who were now addicted to opioids, had started when they had been exposed to the drug for its medicinal value.

The pilot analyzed and compared prescriptions for opioids and ALTOs from June to November in 2017 with prescriptions for the same period in 2016. It found that the opioid prescriptions were less by 35,000 or 36 percent.

Health expert across the United States feel that Opioids, including painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine, have been responsible for the dangerous epidemic ravaging the country. Dr. Donald Stader, associate medical director of the ED at Swedish Medical Center, Denver, said that ALTOs, including drugs like ketamine, dicyclomine and lidocaine, were safer than opioids and should be used to treat pain. “You could see, at a certain point, ALTOs were used more than opioids…You can’t miss that point. That’s a revolutionary change in how we’re practicing medicine,” he said.

Pain is the primary reason for ED visits

One of the most common reasons for an ED visit in the United States is pain. Generally, physicians use opioids to treat chronic and excruciating pain. Unfortunately, in addition to being highly addictive, these prove to be ineffective for some patients. They are also associated with an increased occurrence of adverse reactions, side effects and unfavorable short- and long-term effects. Moreover, many a times, opioids serve as the gateway drug to addiction to other illicit substances like cocaine and heroin.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than half of the people, who reported current misuse of psychotherapeutic drugs, were abusing prescription painkillers. Of these, almost half reported misusing painkillers in the past month. Approximately 3.3 million people, aged 12 years and older, were current misusers of painkillers.

Seeking help for addiction

In spite of being one of the most developed economies in the world, America seems to be still struggling to find the perfect solution to curb the excessive use of opioids and the resulting problems. Health care officials need to provide the best possible treatment, other than addictive opioids, to the millions of people suffering from chronic pain. Crucial steps in the direction of getting rid of addictive medicines, once considered compulsory for pain relief, also need to be addressed.

If you or your loved one is suffering from an addiction to prescription drugs, seek assistance from the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline. For more information about Colorado drug rehab centers, call our 24/7 drug addiction helpline number 866-218–7546 or chat online with our treatment advisors.

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