Manatee Emergency Rooms are implementing Alternative to Opioids (ALTO) solutions to combat the opioid epidemic. Opioids can lead to addiction, overdose, and death. Ramos Center supports alternatives to opioid options, as chronic pain can seriously affect everyday life. Dr. Alexis LaPietra, the medical director of Emergency Medicine Pain Management Program at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., states that opioid overdose is the number one killer of Americans under the age of 50. Unfortunately, Bradenton is the opioid overdose capital of Florida, and no one knows why.

Several medical facilities in the area are taking action against the opioid epidemic by implementing ALTO, which aims to reduce the number of prescriptions written by testing other avenues of pain management. This three-pronged approach includes prevention, treatment, and harm reduction.

Step 1. Prevention- Opioids are typically given to patients with acute pain because it’s a quick method for pain management. However, narcotics may work faster, but that doesn’t mean they offer the best results.

Step 2. Treatment- The implementation of ALTO suggests a Lidocaine patch or a combination of Motrin and Tylenol could suffice for back pain instead of prescribing a narcotic.

Step 3. Harm reduction- The needle exchange program allows addicts to live long enough to seek treatment, without embracing addiction.

Statistics show that prescriptions are a gateway drug, and nearly 80 percent of heroin users’ addictions started there. Moreover, forty percent of opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved prescription drugs. Stephanie Brown, a pharmacy clinical coordinator at Manatee Memorial, said this.

In 2016, Manatee Memorial saw 1,396 drug overdoses, up 300 from 2015. While through October 2017, the figure is 1,093, the numbers continue to fluctuate. A New Jersey hospital has implemented ALTO for the last two years, which has resulted in a 57 percent reduction in opioids prescribed. Fewer opioids released into the community makes for fewer addicts coming through hospital doors.

Emergency rooms will always offer opioids; however, educating patients to consider alternative options for pain management is vital. Ramos Center supports the groundbreaking efforts of Doctors LaPietra and Rosenberg and is excited to see how this impacts future medicine in Bradenton!

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