EL PASO, Texas - Each day, more than 130 people in the United States die due to opioid overdose. The misuse of and addiction to opioids, including pain relievers, is a national crisis.
Doctors are fighting back, educating the public and prescribing surgical patients pain relievers that don't come with the risk of addiction.
"There are drugs in the same class as heroin, available as prescriptions. The idea of pain relief is good, but the problem is the last 15-20 years we've had a tremendous amount of over-prescribing
Urogynecologist Dr. Richard Farnam sends most of his surgical patients home with the On-Q pain relief system. It's a pressurized pump that's portable, and releases a local anesthetic through a catheter to the surgical site. 95 percent of hysterectomy patients are giong home with this system. Generally, after 5 days, patients can remove the catheter from the site themselves.
"They're going home sooner, and have less pain and less narcotic consumption and abuse potential, without the side effects that come with opioids: nausea, confusion, and constipation," says Dr. Farnam.
We spoke with one mom who used the On-Q pump after her second c-section.
"It made a huge difference! didn't sit in bed. I sat in chairs, walked. It was a very different recovery," says Amanda Horton as she cradled her newborn. After her first c-section, she says she struggled to stand and had to walk hunched over. She slept a lot, because of the Demerol and Percocet she'd been prescribed. With the On-Q pain relief system, she says even her hospital stay was different.
"The surgery was...enjoyable!" Horton says.
As a doctor, Farnam says he feels a moral obligation to raise awareness of opioid abuse.
"I don't think a lot of people understand the magnitude of the crisis. In 2017 there were 3,000 opioid-related deaths in the state of Texas. Our goal is to eliminate opioids. In a year if we only make a difference for one patient, it would be worth it."
Dr. Jose Zamudio agrees, and says his patients have been very happy with the On-Q alternative.
"Over the years, the surgery and pain management has evolved. Before, we left patients in the hospital 3 or 4 days and now we send them home with pain relief that involves the pum, which significantly reduces pain because of the local anesthetic, " says Zamudio. He adds that almost 100 percent of his patients choose the On-Q pump over a bottle of opioids.
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