Banding Together To Stop Opioid Addiction Where It Often Starts - In Hospitals

Kaiser Health News, January 12, 2018

The largest private U.S. hospital chain is rolling out a new protocol prior to surgery. It includes a warning that patients should expect to feel some pain.

This article first appeared January 12, 2018 on Kaiser Health News.

By Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio

Michelle Leavy and her three sons, ages 7, 5 and 3. She became addicted to opioids when she was discharged from the hospital with doctors' advice to treat her post-c-section pain with opioids. She is now in recovery. (Courtesy of Michelle Leavy)

Doctors at some of the largest U.S. hospital chains admit they went overboard with opioids to make people as pain-free as possible, and now they shoulder part of the blame for the nation's opioid crisis. In an effort to be part of the cure, they've begun to issue an uncomfortable warning to patients: You're going to feel some pain.

Even for people who've never struggled with drug abuse, studies are finding that patients are at risk of addiction anytime they go under the knife.

"I had the C-section, had the kiddo," said Michelle Leavy of Las Vegas. "And then they tell me, ‘It's OK, you can keep taking the pain medications, it's fine.'"

Leavy is a mother of three and a paramedic who has dealt with many patients coping with addiction. She welcomed the high-dose intravenous narcotics while in the hospital and, upon her release, gladly followed doctors' orders to keep ahead of the pain with Percocet pills.

But then she needed stronger doses. Soon, she realized, she was no longer treating pain.

"Before I went to work, I took them, and to get the kids after school, I had to take them," she said. "Then I was taking them just to go to bed. I didn't really realize I had a problem until the problem was something more than I could have taken care of myself."

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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