Fighting Opioids Through Alternatives - And Resetting Expectations On Treating Pain

Jan 31, 2018

Buncombe County commissioners have been holding town hall meetings in recent months regarding opioids.  Those gatherings have touched on several topics, but have had one common goal – educating people on how powerful the painkillers are and how easy it is to become addicted to them.

Dr. Red Hoffman is a trauma surgeon at the Mountain Area Health Education Center, better known as MAHEC.  She also focuses on hospice and palliative care in her work, so Hoffman administers and prescribes opioids frequently.  Part of her talk at these town halls on opioids includes this statistic -

“We know that if you use opioids for five days as prescribed, the likelihood of you being on an opioid a year from now is 7%.  If you use opioids for ten days as prescribed, the likelihood of you being on an opioid a year from now almost triples.”

Hoffman says patients who are uncomfortable being prescribed an opioid should talk to their doctor about alternatives – such as taking ibuprofen and Tylenol in combination, which Hoffman says has been shown to be just as effective as taking Oxycodone.  Hoffman also stresses that expectations on pain and treating it must change too – for both patients and doctors.  “You’ll see when you go to the doctor we’ll ask you ‘what is your pain from a scale of zero to 10?’  I think the expectation of having a pain of zero when you are a living, breathing human being is just not realistic.  Being a human comes with having pain.  Some physical, some emotional.”

Buncombe County late last year announced a lawsuit against certain manufacturers and distributors of opioids, mirroring how other cities, counties, and states have dealt with the epidemic across the U.S.  Others in North Carolina have followed, with Burke County commissioners expected to announce a similar suit on Thursday.