In a unique move toward reducing opioid overuse, the emergency room of New Jersey’s St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, the busiest in the state, has decided to eliminate the use of opioids as the first defense against mild to moderate cases of pain.
In an effort that has spanned a period of two months, the hospital’s Alternative to Opioids, or “ALTO,” program has managed to control the pain of 300 patients (that’s 75%) without the use of opioids.
Through use of acetaminophen, ibuprofen and non-opioid pain blocking medications such as lidocaine injections, doctors and nurses have successfully been able to treat a number of different ailments such as kidney stones, chronic pain and other mild to moderate ailments.
While the staff at St. Joseph’s still value the power of opioids as a buttress against pain, they recognize that in several cases, the pain can be managed, controlled or even eliminated without the use of such powerful drugs.
“We have to acknowledge the fact that opioids are an essential drug to managing people with severe pain, like cancer pain,” says Dr. Mark Rosenberg, head of the hospital’s department of emergency medicine.
Of course, there are still legitimate reasons to use opioids, such as severe injuries, but the key here is that the hospital is being more vigilant in deciding which cases call for the use of the drugs.
This new line of practice comes when America is showing its vulnerability to the ravaging effects of opioid use. In 2014 alone, drug overdoses caused more deaths than car crashes and guns in the US, and 61% of those involved opioids.
Our hats are off to St. Joseph’s for their effort to reduce the overuse of opioids and exploring better, safer ways to treat pain.