Spine surgeon reflects on opioid use in the opioid epidemic — 4 insights

Jackie Drees -   Print  |

While some hospitals and physicians have adopted stances of limiting prescription opioids in light of the opioid epidemic, these actions have worsened the epidemic, according to a guest column spine surgeon David Hanscom, MD, wrote in Pain News Network.

Four insights:

1. When a patient's opioid dosage is reduced or cut off, the individual is likely to feel increased anxiety and frustration, which can result in the patient pursuing illicit sources such as heroin and synthetic opioids for pain relief, Dr. Hanscom wrote.

2. In 2017, there were almost 49,000 overdose deaths from both legal and illegal opioids, according to the report.

3. Dr. Hanscom offers the following actions as a plan to help solve the opioid epidemic:

• Solve chronic pain — Health systems should focus their efforts on exploring effective treatments for chronic pain rather than restrict access to pain medications.

• Recognize mental pain — The direct linkage between pain circuits and stress will cause individuals experiencing anxiety to have more physical pain.

• Acknowledge environmental factors — The patient's relationships and outside experiences can exacerbate chronic pain. Physicians should initiate conversations with patients and listen for any signs of stress and anxiety that could be triggers.

4. Dr. Hanscom is a spine surgeon at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle. His specialties include back and spine injuries, lumbar spine trauma and cervical spine problems.

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