In less than 2 1/2 months, Florida's new law cracking down on opioids goes into effect: limiting doctors to prescribing three-day supplies of opioids, with a few exceptions.
The law also adds new training for doctors. Gov. Rick Scott says the new rules will help begin to curtail the state's opioid crisis, which kills 6,000 people a year — that's about 16 people a day.
But critics continue to argue these limits will punish patients and fail to put a dent in the drug problem.
Some doctors are taking their own steps to address the crisis, like trying new methods that reduce the use of opioids to manage patients' post-operative pain.
"Most studies look at approximately 50 percent of people addicted to narcotics started in a post-operative timeframe," said Dr. Steven Greenberg, an OB-GYN at Florida Hospital Tampa.
"If we can reduce the amount of narcotics and opioids they're using, we can start cutting that back."
Greenberg says for procedures like a hysterectomy, he's avoiding opioids and instead starting his patients on pain meds like Gabapentin, a drug commonly used for nerve pain, Celebrex or something similar like Aleve, and even Tylenol.
"Which by itself they may not do much, but in combination, those three really reduce the amount of narcotics people need to take," he said.
During some surgeries, Greenberg said he's also begun using a nerve block similar to an epidural, which can last for up to 72 hours after the operation to help pain management.
Florida Hospital Tampa pain management pharmacist Shannon Robb said people are asking for opioid alternatives like they haven't before.
"What we’ve really seen in the past several years is our patients are actually concerned with taking opioid medications," she said. "Because they’ve seen the news stories, they have witnessed others in their lives become addicted.”
Unfortunately, these available alternatives aren't a viable answer for all patients.
On Facebook Live, Kandee worried she would just have to suffer after surgery because she fears taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or an acetaminophen.
"Tylenol can hurt your liver & ibuprofen your kidney, long-term," she said. "When you have one kidney like myself & need a new knee ..."
Bobbie said he had a knee replacement and needed Norco and Tramadol for five weeks.
"What will that be substituted with, I can't imagine," he said.
But Greenberg contends that the program Florida Hospital Tampa and others are implementing is at least a good start, adding that he's seen a "significant" drop in the number of his patients post-op using narcotics since he began the practice two months ago.
“If we can make it less easy to access [opioids] and less easy to become addicted, I think that’ll be a big benefit," he said.
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