As many people in our community and across the nation know, we are in the midst of an opioid crisis. An estimated 59,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2016. It has been said that some patients initially prescribed opioids for legitimate painful conditions later turn to heroin when they can no longer afford or have access to prescription medications that they have become addicted to. The physicians at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers take this crisis very seriously and take all possible measures to protect you, your family and our community during this critical time in our nation.
One of our most important responsibilities as your pain physician is to insure that you or your family member do not become addicted to opioid medications. The initial and most important step that we take is to thoroughly evaluate you, your history, and your painful condition and determine if opioid medications are needed at all. Many painful conditions can be treated with interventional techniques such as epidural steroid injections, facet blocks, and spinal cord stimulation. There are well over 20 different types of interventions used to treat pain and our physicians are experienced and trained in all of them. Additionally, if one of our doctors determine that opioids are necessary you or your family member will be monitored very closely for any signs of substance abuse or addiction. We have a pain psychologist as a member of our practice to help us identify patients who may need treatment for addiction issues very early in the process, improving the likelihood successful treatment.
Additionally, as a patient there are several actions that you can take to insure safe treatment and reduce the likelihood of opioid misuse, addiction and diversion. Most importantly, always take your medications only as prescribed. Inform your physicians of all medications that you are taking to avoid potentially dangerous interactions. Never share your medications with anyone or take anyone else’s medication. Keep your medications locked in a lock box to avoid them being taken by anyone, especially children and teenagers. Develop a relationship with your pharmacist who can assist you in identifying potential drug interactions. Inform your doctor of any side effects you have from your pain medication such as drowsiness, dizziness, or shortness of breath as these may be early signs that a medication is not appropriate for you. Finally, be open to other forms of treatment for chronic pain such as physical therapy, non-opiate based medications, and injections such as those offered by the physicians at Alliance Spine and Pain which will reduce or eliminate your need for opiates and get you back to living life to the fullest!