Fighting opioid addiction with alternative ways to treat pain

January 22, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

For many individuals, addiction to opioids began with a prescription. Physicians prescribe opioids to help manage pain, but overprescribing has become a problem. The number of annual opioid prescriptions written in the U.S. is roughly equal to the number of adults in the country.

Overprescribing highly addictive medications like opioids can quickly lead to misuse. Almost everyone who uses opioids over a long period of time will develop a dependency. Addiction, and too often overdose, soon follows.

Since 1999, more than 183,000 people in the U.S. died from prescription opioids. And thousands more are at risk, struggling under the weight of overprescribed medications that they feel trapped to get out from under. It’s clear that we need better ways to treat pain.

In 2016, Edward-Elmhurst Health launched an Opioid Task Force to address the growing epidemic in our community. Since then, we’ve implemented a series of programs, including the the Midwest Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) project.

Through the ALTO project, we are adopting safe, non-opioid modalities in our Emergency Departments as a first-line therapy for patients with specific pain conditions (e.g., low back pain, extremity fractures, headache/migraine). Opioids will only be administered as a second-line treatment option. By considering alternative ways to effectively treat pain first, the goal is to reduce the number of opioids prescribed — and the risk of addiction.

Edward-Elmhurst Health is one of only two health systems in the Chicago area participating in the ALTO project. A similar project implemented in Colorado achieved a 36 percent average reduction in the administration of opioids in 10 hospital emergency departments. We’re looking to implement ALTO initiatives in our Pain Clinics and across the health system.

Our other opioid initiatives

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are so intense that it can be difficult for someone to even get started on the road to addiction recovery. For people facing opioid use disorder, we offer a Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) Clinic. Our MAT Clinic provides medication that suppresses withdrawal symptoms and stifles cravings for the drug, while therapy is used to address the underlying trigger for the drug use. This approach has been successful in helping people get their lives back from opioids.

MAT Clinic services are available without a physician’s order to anyone who wants to begin the process of change. A patient can start at the Clinic, or move there after an inpatient, residential or outpatient treatment program at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. We are now initiating MAT in our Emergency Departments as well, which can be life-changing for patients. Learn more about how MAT can break opioid addiction.

We are also implementing initiatives to safely dispose of opioid medications to prevent misuse and protect the environment:

  • Medication Take-Back program for safe disposal of opioids. Community members can drop off unused, unwanted or expired controlled medications in one of our secure medication disposal bins at Edward or Elmhurst Hospital at any time.
  • Opioid denaturing packet initiative. Through a donation from the RX Abuse Leadership Initiative, we received 30,000 opioid denaturing packets, an in-home medication disposal option, which we are distributing free-of-charge to patients and community members.

Our country’s opioid crisis is far from over, but there is hope. Edward-Elmhurst Health will continue leading the fight to save more lives.

It’s incredibly difficult to overcome this opioid addiction on your own. If you or someone you love is struggling with an opioid addiction, we can help you get your life back. We see hundreds of patients with opioid use disorders come through our doors every year.

Explore services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health or fill out this assessment request form online and one of our team members will contact you. You can also call our Opioid Crisis Hotline at 630-599-7696 and we can help you figure out your next step.

Want to find out your risk for addiction? Take our free online AddictionAware Risk Assessment and get next steps.

Related blogs:

Addressing the opioid crisis

How to help someone with an opioid addiction

The short- and long-term dangers of opioid addiction


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