According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), since 1999, deaths involving prescription opioids have increased by more than five times. The CDC also states that over 200,000 people have died from prescription opioids in that time frame. We spoke to Dr. Scott Fowler, family medicine provider at Utica Park Clinic in Bixby, regarding opioids and the ways you can ensure you are using them safely, questions you should be asking your provider about them and how you can manage your use of opioids.
When it comes to chronic pain patients who have been prescribed opioids, Dr. Fowler shares, “Making sure non-opioid therapies are considered or attempted is the most important step. To get off of chronic opioids, it is important to develop a plan with your doctor to lower the dosing over time. Quitting suddenly or 'cold turkey' is difficult and can be dangerous.” The CDC states that long-term opioid use often begins with treatment of acute pain, recommending that “providers prescribe the lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids and should prescribe no greater quantity than needed for the expected duration of pain severe enough to require opioids.”
When being prescribed opioids, there are a few things you should be aware of and discussing with your provider. Dr. Fowler states, “You should always be made aware of the potential for side effects, dependence and addiction when being prescribed opioids. You should ask what other alternatives are available and make sure they are exhausted before agreeing to take opioids.”
As far as what providers can do to help with the opioid crisis we are currently experiencing across the country, Dr. Fowler explains, “Limiting opioids to the lowest effective dose for the shortest effective duration is the mainstay for keeping people from becoming dependent or addicted to opioids.” He adds, “Smaller doses and prescriptions for shorter duration should be the goal.” The question then becomes, what alternative treatments can providers offer rather than prescribing opioids? Dr. Fowler notes, “Alternative medication options include anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Sometimes steroid injections or pills may be used. Non-pharmacological options include physical therapy, stretching, chiropractic treatments or massage therapy.
“You should use opioids only as prescribed. When they are written on an as-needed basis, you should only take them when other options have failed to control your pain,” Dr. Fowler says in regard to how patients can ensure they are using opioids safely. He adds, “You should also never adjust your pain medication or change other medications you are taking in conjunction with opioids without first discussing it with your provider.”
If you are looking for a family medicine provider, please call 918-574-0150 to make an appointment with Dr. Fowler at Utica Park Clinic’s newest location in Bixby.