Archive Opioids 2020

A Nation in Crisis

Surgeons helped cause the opioid addiction problem. Now they can be part of the solution.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Executive Editor


PILING ON Healthcare professionals who failed to understand the seriousness of the opioid addiction epidemic put countless patients in peril.

To prevent the next patient from getting hooked on opioids, let’s first consider what helped cause the national epidemic to spiral out of control. It wasn’t surgeons passing out opioids like aspirin, pill mill docs looking to profit off drug-seeking patients or addicts working the system for their next fix. The proliferation of opioids in communities across the nation can be linked to well-meaning surgeons who prescribed excessive amounts of painkillers to keep their patients comfortable after surgery because, well, that’s how they’d always done it.

“Surgeons of course know about the opioid crisis, but they might not realize that their overprescribing is contributing to the problem,” says Andrew Kolodny, MD, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. “The surgical community is much more aware of the epidemic, but that awareness hasn’t yet translated into appropriate prescribing practices.”

Surgeons are beginning to rely less on opioids to manage post-op pain, but it’s going to take time for physicians to alter their prescribing habits, says Michael Manning, MD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

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