The Dangers of Opioid Abuse

Many kinds of medications can be used to reduce spine and orthopedic pain, from over-the-counter drugs to powerful opioids. The medication(s) that your doctor recommends will depend on several factors including the intensity and cause of your pain, your response to other treatments, and other health conditions that you may have. When used as recommended, these medications can alleviate severe pain, especially during the hours and days immediately following an injury or major surgery. However, opioids are not a long-term pain solution and, when misused, can lead to addiction and even death.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record, and the majority of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids – including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin – nearly quadrupled. Prescription pain medication deaths remain far too high, and in 2014, the most recent year on record, there was a sharp increase in deaths. Our nation is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic.

Safely Manage Pain
With the dangers of prescription opioids, patients should know how to safely and effectively manage pain. Patients should:

  • Expect some pain, especially after the first few days after surgery
  • Discuss a pain relief plan with your doctor and stick to it
  • If prescribed opioids, try to take as few as possible and stop taking them as soon as possible
  • Only take opioids as prescribed
  • Always store and dispose of opioids safely
  • Have only one doctor prescribing opioids

Prevention, treatment, research and effective responses to rapidly reverse opioid overdoses are critical to fighting the epidemic. While minimizing patient discomfort remains an important goal of orthopaedic care, great caution should be used in prescribing and taking opioids. We’re working to change the culture of pain management with the ultimate goal of significantly reducing opioid use and misuse. To learn more, visit