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Prisma Health seeks alternative to opioids as use down roughly 50%

Since 2016, Prisma Health has been trying to reduce opioid use among patients due to the risk of addiction amid the ongoing opioid crisis.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Opioids used to be the primary solution for patients experiencing acute of chronic pain, often leading to addiction. To combat the state and national opioid crisis, Prisma Health is working to reduce use of the drugs among its patients.

According to recent data, more than 880 opioid-related deaths happened in South Carolina in 2019 alone.

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“We want to provide alternatives to treat people’s pain conditions that may not be pharmaceutical based,” Dr. Kevin Walker, Medical Director for Pain Medicine at Prisma Health said.

They started in 2016 by creating educational programs for patients and staff and prioritizing alternative forms of care.

“These are things that range from really simple, common alternating heat and ice, to turning the light down in the room, to turning the temperature down in the room, to actually helping the patient move in his or her bed…,” Dr. Walker said, “… physical therapy, occupational therapy, movement treatments.”

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Since then, Walker said they’ve reduced prescribed opioid use by almost 50 percent.

While these drugs are still needed for some patients, “we are making sure that we’re using it in appropriate ways together with other approaches,” Prisma Health Addiction Specialist Dr. Alain Litwin said.

Those struggling with opioid addiction can find help at justplainkillers.com, or by calling the free national substance abuse and mental health helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).