Congress has spent hundreds of billions of dollars battling America’s opioid crisis. To date, this support has gone to worthy causes such as support for first responders, ensuring naloxone availability in communities around the country, and providing support for patients with a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, with all this time, effort, and money spent, relatively little attention has been paid to opportunities to prevent opioid addiction.
One way to do this is to seek opportunities to minimize unnecessary exposure to opioids. This is particularly important for opioid-naïve, young patients who may be undergoing a surgical procedure for the first time, suffering from a sports injury, or involved in some sort of accident or trauma.
All told, nearly four million Americans go on to long-term opioid use following these types of incidents. It’s easy to see why – a staggering 90 percent of these patients are prescribed opioids to manage their pain. It’s no wonder we dispense nearly 150 million opioid prescriptions a year in this country and consume 80 percent of the global supply of prescription opioids.
While opioids are currently the standard of care for many acute pain patients, they aren’t the only game in town. There are a variety of other, non-opioid based pain approaches that have been deemed safe and effective in treating acute pain. Such approaches, like nerve blocks, abuse-deterrent devices, IV NSAIDs, steroids, and others, have demonstrated the ability to provide effective pain relief and substantially minimize patient exposure to opioids.
Unfortunately, these non-opioid approaches are frequently out-of-reach for patients and providers. That’s because our healthcare system in the United States inadvertently incentivizes the use of prescription opioid pills for managing pain. This tone deaf, outdated approach needlessly exposes patients to prescription opioid pills and ignores a vital reality in the United States – one that saw 75,000 Americans die last year from an opioid-related drug overdose.
Fortunately, Congress is paying attention. Legislation is pending in the United States Congress that seeks to address this issue and, in the process, prevent opioid addiction where we can. The Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (“NOPAIN”) Act would update antiquated reimbursement rules to provide patient and provider access to the wide array of safe and effective non-opioid pain approaches.
Support for the NOPAIN Act in Congress is at historic levels. Nearly 50 U.S. Senators now support this groundbreaking legislation, but we need to do more to get it over the finish line. Congress needs to hear from you about why this is a priority. With your help, we can make a significant impact in preventing addiction in the nation and, in the process, save lives.
Let’s work together to get this important legislation passed. Visit https://nonopioidchoices.org/action-center/ to weigh in. Time is of the essence.