Addiction prevention: Opioid prescriptions after surgeries decline in Michigan, doctors say

'It’s been going down for the last couple of years.'
Posted at 1:54 PM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 18:23:52-04

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — 7 Action News spoke with doctors who say cases of prescription fraud, or doctors intentionally overprescribing of opioids, is very rare.

There are well-meaning physicians who are trying to strike a balance with managing a patient’s pain and not prescribing too much.

“As a surgeon, you want your patients to recover as well as possible after surgery. And unfortunately, kind of based on the understanding of opioids in the 80s and 90s, there was this kind of attitude that people should be 100% pain free. There was a belief that opioids were a lot safer than we now understand they are,” Dr. Ryan Howard, a general surgery resident at Michigan Medicine, said.

Howard said there are risks to patients receiving certain prescriptions like developing complications, overdosing, addiction, as well as a risk to the community.

“Even four or five years ago, we were kind of shocked to discover that we were prescribing too much. We were sending patients home with 50, 60, 70 pills and often, they were using four or five and recovering just fine,” Howard said.

Howard says studies he’s been a part of led to finding the right way to meet a patient’s needs since pain prescriptions are not a one-size-fits-all.

But he said in Michigan, for example, the amount of opioids prescribed after surgery has decreased by about 50%.

“It’s been going down for the last couple of years. Historically, these rates remain really high,” said Dr. Mark Bicket, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist with Michigan Medicine.

Bicket is also a co-director of the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network. He says doctors are trying to do a better of recognizing a patient’s risk for abuse or addiction and getting them treatment and access to care.

He said there are non-opioid alternatives for managing pain that may be just as effective.

“Some of the medicines, people may even have in their prescription cabinet at home or can get over the counter. So, Tylenol, acetaminophen is one those. When we combine that with medication like Ibuprofen, that’s also called Aleve. When you put those two medicines together, they actually, in many studies, can work better for certain types of acute pain than a prescription opioid,” Bicket said.