Lexington County, SC (WLTX) - With the opioid epidemic growing around the nation and in the Palmetto State, work is being done to make sure that prescription opioid abuse does not occur.
When patients go to the hospital, they are asked to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10. With different levels of pain, comes different levels of treatment. That's where physicians have to determine what's the best plan for their patients.
"Pain is such a subjective thing," says Lexington Medical Physician Christopher Cooper. Dr. Cooper works in the Emergency Room and says different types of pain call for different types of treatment, but before prescribing medication, assessing the patients history is important.
"Acute pain is different than chronic pain," says Dr. Cooper. "Obviously if someone comes in with a broken leg, we're not going to ask if you have a problem with addiction, here's some Tylenol, while we're trying to decide if they need medicine. Obviously we're going to treat the patient and get them out of pain. Really for chronic pain is when we're going to talk about opioid dependence and being concerned with opioid seeking behavior."
When opioids are needed for acute pain, or short-term pains, like a broken leg, The Center for Disease Control suggests prescribing no more than needed or the lowest effective dose.
The CDC also recommends not prescribing opioids for chronic pain, or pain that last more than three months.
"A more conservative approach is doing something like Tylenol," says Dr. Cooper. "Using something like Lidocane patches, for more centralized areas, those seem to work very well for a lot of people."
Physical therapy is also recommended to help patients with chronic pain.
Dr. Cooper says the goal is to make sure they are not over prescribing.
"You don't want people to suffer, but you want to be judicious in the prescribing of medicines because obviously they do cause problems."
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, last year nearly five million opioid prescriptions were filled in South Carolina.