Colorado is unfortunately at the forefront of the nation’s opioid epidemic, with the 12th highest rate of prescription opioid misuse and abuse in all 50 states. Opioids are drugs that are used to relieve acute pain. Their use carries significant risk of long-term abuse and dependence, even when taken exactly as prescribed. In the worst case, opioid use can lead to accidental poisoning or fatal overdose.
Colorado hospitals, and particularly the emergency departments, are in a strong position to integrate new and more effective pain management treatments. St. Vincent Health is proud to announce it has joined the Colorado Alternative to Opioids Project (ALTO) to continue to significantly reduce its administration of opioids.
“With such big risk of misuse and addiction, we seek to use opioids very sparingly and only when alternatives have been tried and proven ineffective” says Dr. Dylan Luyten, medical director of St. Vincent’s emergency medical services. “Studies show that patients are just as satisfied with their care and pain management when ALTO protocols are used. In our ER, clinicians discuss safer options as a part of an individualized patient-centered care plan.”
In alignment with the principles of the ALTO movement, St. Vincent’s position is that minimizing patients’ initial exposure to opioid medications is a crucial step to fight the epidemic. Doctors at St. Vincent use everything from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, local anesthetics, and traditional anti-nausea medications that perform double duty as pain relievers. Other alternative treatments include regional nerve blocks, therapeutic ultrasound, massage, physical therapy and acupuncture.
“St. Vincent is committed to helping families and patients who are affected by opioid addiction,” says Karen Onderdonk, chief branding officer for St. Vincent. “There are highly effective medications available to treat opioid addiction that can be started in the emergency department.”