WNPR

Connecticut Surgeons Unite to Seek Alternatives to Opioids

Aug 24, 2016

The doctors recommend replacing some opioids with less potentially-addictive drugs, like a type of IV-administered Tylenol.

Doctors in Connecticut are working together to reduce the amount of prescription opioids prescribed after surgery. 

Philip Corvo, a surgeon at Saint Mary's Hospital in Waterbury understands patients want to be free of pain following a surgery. "So we have this pressure to prescribe more potent, faster-acting, longer-acting, pain medicine," he said on WNPR's Where We Live.

But Corvo said that pressure can create a problem -- an addiction to opioid painkillers. Because of that, he said Connecticut's acute care hospitals are working together via the Connecticut Surgical Quality Collaborative to develop post-operative treatment standards.

The doctors plan to stress proper nutrition after surgery -- and replace some opioids with less potentially addictive drugs, like a type of IV-administered Tylenol.

"When you say Tylenol, people sort of 'poo poo' it and think, 'Oh I just had major surgery, there's no way you can give me Tylenol,' but when you take a pill of Tylenol, your liver metabolizes almost 90 percent of it, and makes you get rid of it," said Corvo. "When we give you the intravenous version of it, 100 percent of it is available for pain control," he said. "It's as potent as morphine and Demerol is without the side effects and without the addiction potential."

Right now, Corvo said these types of medications might cost more up front than older, generic opioid pills, but those costs make sense because they reduce addiction risk and prevent future hospital visits.

WNPR's Opioid Addiction Crisis Reporting Initiative is supported by Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network's MATCH Program.