DENVER – Nearly a dozen Colorado emergency rooms are trying an experiment that has the entire country watching.
Members of the Colorado Hospital Association have pledged to reduce the number of opioids they prescribe to emergency patients in an effort to combat the increasing overdoses and addictions they see coming through their doors daily.
Many of those opioid addictions can be traced back to a prescription from a doctor.
Dr. Don Stader is an emergency physician at Swedish Medical Center in Denver, CO.
“We had a previous method where pain equaled an opioid for pretty much everything,” he said.
Dr. Stader has lead the charge on developing the plan to reduce opioid prescriptions. He says it began a year and a half ago when he treated a 20-year-old woman for an overdose.
“(She) was in college. Dropped out, became estranged from her family, living on the streets, sometimes prostituting herself for heroin,” Stader said. “Her addiction began with a prescription for percocet for an ankle sprain. Earlier that day I had prescribed a narcotic for what I thought was a really bad ankle sprain.”
Dr. Stader says his colleagues from other hospitals around the state of Colorado got on board quickly with devising a plan to reduce opioid prescriptions.
Eight hospitals, and three free-standing emergency rooms are the first in the state to launch the pilot program and study.
It encourages doctors to analyse what type of pain their patient is experiencing instead of immediately writing a prescription for an opioid.
“So really it was infusing the science back into our practices,” Stader said.
He says the pharmaceutical companies and even the hospitals themselves encouraged over-prescribing opioids.
“This was sold to us over the last 20 years often times by dubious science and a pharmaceutical industry which was aimed at profit,” Stader said.
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