Pain Management Nurse Cautions Opioid Use
February 15, 2018
Every day, more than 115 Americans die of an opioid overdose. This could be your neighbors, your friends, your family — anyone. There is no “standard.” Deaths related to prescription opioid overdoses have more than quadrupled since 1999. This is the crisis that’s sweeping the nation. Opioid addiction is now one of the top 10 killers in America.
Katharine Julian is a nurse practitioner at a pain management clinic in the Traverse City area. One of the main duties her job requires is writing prescriptions for opioid painkillers. But she doesn’t think opioids should be prescribed to anyone; only as a “very last resort” she said.
“We need to be much more thoughtful and more careful before we prescribe them,” Julian said.
What’s dumbfounding is how often children are given opioid prescription painkillers. Whether it’s for a sports injury, a surgery, a tooth extraction, opioids seem to be the “only cure” for the pain. It’s been proven that the younger you begin taking these drugs, the more susceptible you are to become addicted to them. This could be one factor affecting the steady incline of heroin users from 2002-2013. More than 80 percent of those who use heroin begin by misusing prescription painkillers such as Oxycodone and Hydrocodone.
“I think it would be a very rare case that a child should ever be prescribed an opioid,” Julian said. She encourages parents to refuse to let the children take the drugs and question the doctor about the prescription.
The dilemma is this. Opioids do play an important role in pain management — when used responsibly. But that is difficult to define and may vary from person to person.
Surprisingly, medical professionals are also only recently learning how much our community is affected by the opioid crisis.
Julian didn’t even realize how bad the epidemic is in our area and she deals with it everyday. Early studies on the narcotics like Oxycontin and Hydrocodone indicated there was little risk of addiction with these painkillers. However, now we know otherwise.
Opioid drugs interact with our bodies’ chemistry, releasing endorphins that cause a high. Our brains also produce endorphins on its own. But once an addict continues to consume these drugs, their brain stops making its own endorphins because the drugs are serving the same purpose. This is what causes people to go through withdrawals, which result in nausea, depression, and anxiety — sometimes severe. So, the cycle repeats; consume, feel good, feel sick, repeat.
Julian also stated that she and others are trying to get patients to take as little amount of medicine for the shortest amount of time possible in order to prevent addiction.
“I think [the people] need to be aware that addiction can happen easily and at any time with these medications,” Julian said.