Centers for Disease Medication For Teenage Depression And Anxiety Control and Prevention called for physicians to prescribe no more than three to seven days’ worth of take-home opioids for acute pain. Numerous professional groups also called for restraint. “We were probably too liberal when we were responding to all this pressure (to prescribe the drugs), but that’s really tightened up,” said Dr. Mark Reiter, past president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. The same reckoning has happened in operating rooms. At Northwestern Medicine’s hospitals, surgeons try to prescribe no more than a small amount of opioids after a procedure, though they don’t stick to a specific amount. “The reality of treating acute pain is we’re often guessing how many pills a patient will need,” said Dr. Jonah Stulberg, a Northwestern surgeon who has led its opioid reforms. “Some people’s pain gets much better in 24 hours; others have significant pain for three to five days. We probably will never be able to exactly match the number of pills a patient needs with their pain.” Instead, Northwestern tutors patients about the potential dangers of opioids and asks them to bring unused medication to follow-up meetings with their surgeons, where the drugs can be disposed of properly.
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