6 Facts Every PT (and their patients) Should Know About Opioids…

As many of you are aware, the APTA launched its #ChoosePT campaign a few months ago to help combat the opioid epidemic we are facing and to inform the public on the benefits of physical therapy.  Unlike other national campaigns which generally take place during Physical Therapy month, this campaign was much larger.   The APTA invested a ton of resources to develop billboards, commercials, and other forms of marketing to show the public the true benefit of seeing a physical therapist first.  Next week, we will be presenting to some of the major national insurance companies on why they should consider us first.  This is big.  As I prepare a presentation for the upcoming APTA payers forum, I wanted to share a few things we should all know about opioids:

  1. America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic.  In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications.   This number is staggering considering we wrote enough prescriptions for every American adult to have their own bottle of pills.
  2. The number of prescriptions are increasing; yet people still hurt.   Sales of prescription opioids have nearly quadrupled since 1999.  Despite this “It is estimated that 126.1 million adults reported some pain in the previous 3 months, with 25.3 million adults (11.2%) suffering from daily (chronic) pain and 23.4 million (10.3%) reporting a lot of pain.”
  3. Opioids carry high risk.  Deaths related to prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999. More individuals die from prescription opioid overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined, and “every day, over 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.”
  4. Addiction doesn’t discriminate. According to the CDC, “as many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long term for noncancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction.” People who are addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.
  5. Physical therapy is a safe and effective alternative to opioids for long-term pain management. In March 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines urging nonopioid approaches for the management of chronic pain such as physical therapy.
  6. Patients should talk to their health care providers about the risks of opioid treatment and, whenever possible, choose safer alternatives for managing pain. The American Physical Therapy Association has related information on its consumer information website at MoveForwardPT.com/ChoosePT.  Here you can find a ton of resources that will help you and your patients combat this epidemic.

So where does our role lie?   While it is not our role to de-prescribe medications, we can provide education regarding the risks of the medications your patients are taking.  We can also provide them effective and safe solutions in combatting their pain so they can move better.   Lets transform society…
CDC and Journal Statistics on Opioids Cited:

Looking to brush up on your skills for pain management?  Take advantage of these educational resources today!

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