How Emergency Rooms Are Avoiding Opioids

Playing Alternative to Opioids in the ER

The Doctors welcome Dr. Alexis LaPietra, the Medical Director of St. Joseph’s University Medical Center to discuss a new approach to treat pain in the emergency room without using opioids.

St. Joseph’s program, which substitutes opioids with options that are non-addictive, has seen a 58 percent drop in opioid prescriptions.

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Dr. LaPietra explains, “There’s a variety of alternatives that are as effective as opioids and we should be using them in the emergency department." For instance, she says when a patient comes in with kidneys stones, they opt to use lidocaine. For back pain, she says the medical center uses a combination of medications like Motrin and Tylenol. They also use topical medications in the form of creams and patches and also “dry needling,” which is a trigger point injection procedure.

She explains a dry needling procedure involves inserting a small needle into an area of pain and then moving the needle in and out, which then inactivates the spasm. This is followed by an injection of numbing medication to soothe the pain away. She says her patients often see “immediate” pain relief with this procedure. 

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Dr. LaPietra says after implementing the program, St. Joseph’s saw more and more doctors at the medical center use these non-opioid options to treat patient’s pain.

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says that 1 in 48 people who are prescribed an acute opioid become dependent on them and he hopes this new approach is adopted in other emergency rooms.