New data shows decrease in SC opioid prescriptions; doctors say “there’s still much to do”

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- In light of the recent data released by DHEC, it seems that opioid prescriptions may be on the decline.

The South Carolina Department of Health revealed that doctors prescribed enough opioids to give each South Carolinian 47 pills. That number has actually decreased from 57 pills-per-person in 2017.

Our region, Charleston County, has the lowest rate of prescribed opioids in the Low country. The pill-to-person ratio went from 38 in 2017 to 29 in 2018.

In 2017, Roper St. Francis Healthcare recognized that there was a severe problem with opioid abuse in both the state and their facility.

I spoke with Dr. Ken Mitchell, Medical Director of Bariatric and Metabolic Services for Roper St. Francis Healthcare.

“First you have to recognize that there’s a problem,” says Mitchell. “We as a unit put together an opioid abuse task force to address issues that would hopefully effect the way we prescribe opioids in a positive manner.”

Dr. Mitchell explained that for a long time many people believed that opioids were the only way to combat severe pain.

“We now have many better options and more opportunities to treat pain without the fear of  addiction, and have just as good pain relief and/or better,” says Mitchell.

Since the plan was implemented in 2017, opioid usage and prescriptions were reduced by 38% for the entire Roper St. Francis Healthcare System.

Dr. Mitchell’s Bariatric team drastically reduced their usage by 95% in-patient and 97% with out-patient prescriptions. One of the tactics they used was performing less-abrasive surgeries with new technology.

“It’s called an enhanced-recovery protocol,” explained Mitchell. “Basically, we’re trying to decrease the amount of stretch the body has after surgery and improve it’s response time.”

Although he and Roper St. Francis Healthcare have put forth these efforts, he mentioned that there is still much to do within the state and nation.

Reducing the amount of opioids prescribed can have a positive effect on the number of people addicted. However, a good chunk of people addicted to opioids are not the ones being prescribed.

Dr. Mitchell described opioids as “easy to get” and “easy to find in someone’s medicine cabinet.”

Another way that Roper St. Francis and many other organizations have tried to combat opioid theft is by holding medicine drop-offs where you can dispose of your unused pills.

He  believes that there is more work to be done with the Opioid Epidemic, whether it be implementing new ways for pain management or future legislation.

If you’d like to find out where to drop-off your unused pills, click here. 

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