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The Opioid Epidemic – Thinking Out Loud

Opioids, sometimes referred to as narcotics, are used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. They are a type of drug that include strong pain relievers often used after a major injury or surgery.  Patients with chronic pain or cancer are also often prescribed this type of drug. Some opioids are made from the opium plant while others are synthetic (man-made).

In recent years the acceptance of prescription opioid use increased dramatically in the U.S. and Canada. Use, misuse and overdose of opioids and deaths related to opioid use have evolved to epidemic levels in the U.S.; despite the serious risks posed by the use of opioids, accompanied by a lack of evidence about long-term effects caused by opioids, the epidemic continues.

One reason that may be contributing to the opioid epidemic is the demand for instant results. In today’s fast-paced world, individuals demand instant results. Whether we are focusing on technology, reactions, or pain relief; we want it NOW. Unfortunately, sometimes our “wants” do more harm than good, especially when opioids are involved.

Doctors are trained to evaluate symptoms and treat pain and injuries. Pain is the body’s natural reaction to injury and post-surgical procedures. Often, part of a physician’s pain treatment plan includes prescribing pain medications such as opioids to alleviate pain and to accommodate the needs of the patient. Such pain relief medicines include hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin®), morphine and others.  When used correctly under a doctor’s directions, these medicines are helpful in controlling pain; however, if misused, addiction and dependency on these drugs can become a big problem, and possibly lead to death.

Most of us have a choice – whether to tolerate the pain without the use of drugs or to use them as prescribed. Those who decide to take pain relief medications need to be aware that opioid drugs may lead to brain changes, especially in an addictive personality. Your self-control and resistance can become weakened by the urges and self-convinced needs to take the drug, ultimately causing individuals to seek out more drugs than what is needed. Abusing drugs comes in many forms, such as taking unprescribed high dosages, taking someone else’s medications, using or ingesting the drug in ways other than how they were prescribed or taking the drugs to alter your mind (to get high).

Opioid use and misuse is a huge concern. We must pull together to reverse the opioid epidemic that has effected many of us in one way or another.

At Hand to Shoulder Center of Wisconsin, the physicians are mindful of the staggering number of cases of opioid misuse and abuse in the United States. It is their personal mission to educate and inform the patients of the risks of opioid addiction. Drs. Toivonen, Cherney, Lumsden, Olvey, Cullen, Van Zeeland and Butler continue to be mindful of their prescribing protocol while monitoring patients for habits of concern. Alternative pain management solutions are often discussed with patients prior to surgery.

Know that pain is a normal reaction to injury and to post-surgical procedures. It’s the perception, misconceptions and expectations of pain that differ in each one of us. The realization that pain is going to cause discomfort and knowing that pain is expected following an injury and/or surgery, may help mentally alleviate some of the concern and pain. A few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Pain is often at its worse in the first 24 hours of the injury/surgery.
  • Pain typically reduces by 50% after the first 48 hours.
  • After 72 hours pain is often manageable.
  • Attempt to distract your thoughts by resting and icing, if recommended by your physician.
  • Encourage distraction
    • Talk to friends or relatives – make conversation to keep your mind busy.
    • Watch items of interests, such as sports or game shows.
    • Play cards or board games to keep your mind involved.
    • If feasible, go for a walk, read a book or write down your thoughts in a journal, which could also be helpful to your physician.
    • Contact your physician with your pain concerns and medication intake, especially if you have a history of mental illness, alcohol or other substance abuse.

It is the responsibility of each individual to understand their pain tolerance level. In some cases, mind-over-matter plays a huge role in pain management. It is your choice how you handle your pain. We all have a responsibility to know the dangers of opioids and the harm it can do if misused or put into the hands of others.

For guidelines on the disposal of all unused prescription medications, go to . Join us and let’s pull together and “think out loud” to get this epidemic under control.




One Response to The Opioid Epidemic – Thinking Out Loud

  • Karyl says:

    I think all drug abuse counseling aoda programs should be free 2 people who cannot afford them or have no insurance. I believe there are countries in Europe that have this.

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