From the Desk of Gerard Malagna, MD
Avoiding Opioid Addiction
Societal issues and the over-prescribing of opioid medications has led to abuse of, and addiction to, pain medication. Individuals are often prescribed an opioid medication after surgery or an injury, including orthopedic injuries commonly found among Workers’ Compensation cases. That’s why HCS is taking an active role in addressing pain management and avoiding the overuse of opioid prescription medications.
Preventing opioid addiction begins with closely examining the initial treatment of painful conditions to avoid starting a patient on an opioid. Patients who take an opioid for at least 30 days have a 20 percent risk of becoming addicted.
HCS has programs to avoid or reverse the use of opioid medications. This includes care plans based on current guidelines and scientific evidence for cervical, lumbar, shoulder and knee injuries. Our Outcomes Focused Network (OFN) providers have reviewed and agreed to comply with these care plans, which not only optimize outcomes, but also greatly reduce opioid prescribing.
We also developed our Pain Management Medical Home (PMMH) for patients with persistent pain who have failed to improve. Our network of PMMH providers has reviewed and agreed to comply with care plans, which wean patients off opioid medications and limit the number of injections and other passive treatments.
Instead, the patient becomes an active participant in his or her pain control through functional physical therapy, cognitive-behavioral treatments with pain psychologists, and appropriate use of alternative treatments such as acupuncture. The initial data shows a significant reduction in the number of injections and surgeries, as well as improved return-to-work outcomes when compared to patients who had traditional treatments.
As in all areas of medicine, prevention is key. Treating patients who are addicted to opioids is a difficult process, often with limited success. By reducing the use of opioids in the initial treatment of orthopedic conditions, and quickly assessing and treating patients who have ongoing pain, medical professionals can help patients avoid the risk of addiction.