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Your Healthy Family: UCHealth doctors working to curb the drug overdose epidemic

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

Wednesday August 31st was International Overdose Awareness Day.  It's a global initiative that aims to raise awareness that drug overdose death is preventable.  Drug overdose is an issue that physicians at UCHealth Memorial’s Emergency Department have been working on over the last 6 months to specifically address putting the issue and put new policies in place to address how painkillers are prescribed.

Dr. Sean Donahue, an Emergency Department physician and the Director of Operations in the E.D. at  Memorial says "Over the past 10 years we have seen a dramatic increase in both opioid use and opioid overdoses.  The United States is about 20 % of the world’s populations and we prescribe about 85%of the world’s opioids if that gives you any idea about the sheer amount of pain medication we use in the this country.  In the Emergency Room we on the front line of this (issue), weather it's overdoses or trauma, addiction, all of these are things that we as physicians care about.  We want to protect our patients and we want to treat pain, but we need to be doing it more judiciously and safely "

The first steps now in place at UCHealth Memorial are patient education by medical practice says Dr. Donahue.  "When our patients come to the emergency room they will receive a flyer when they are discharged that talks about the epidemic and ways we can treat their pain safer.  We also offer safer alternatives (to manage pain) that can be a simple as ice, massage, heat, all the way up to different anti-inflammatory drugs or different non anti-inflammatory drugs, but the goal would be if a person doesn't need a strong pain medication for pain. that we try to avoid that."

Dr. Donahue also suggests that if your doctor offers you strong pain medication you don't feel you need you should let them know and ask for a different alternative.  "If you don't need the medication don’t get it.  If you’re not dealing with a fracture, or a horrible burn or something else, then we will try to use medication that is safer in the short term."

If you do need to be on strong painkillers for more than a few days Dr. Donahue says make sure you stay under the care of one doctor and one pharmacist who know you best and can be looking out for any signs of accidental addition.  If you have any questions about pain medication, or avoiding addiction or accidental overdose you should follow up with your doctor.

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