In response to an epidemic of opiate addiction, hospitals in North Jersey are taking on the crisis at its root and substituting powerful pain medications with a variety of alternatives — even Tylenol — to prevent patients from ever getting hooked.
Patterns of prescribing are changing for surgery; for painful conditions, including kidney stones and fractures, treated in the emergency room; and for flare-ups from back injuries that once guaranteed a Percocet prescription on the spot.
The strategies were created to help stem a growing tide of addiction that is killing more people than car accidents in New Jersey. The problem reaches from poor neighborhoods to college towns, where teens start with painkillers and switch to cheaper heroin, to wealthy suburbs, where addicts dial for drug delivery with nearly the same ease as ordering a pizza.
At St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, the new thinking begins in the emergency room.
PHOTO: Dr. Alexis LaPietra and Dr. Mark S. Rosenberg speaking with patient Bob Notar in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. Photographed by Marko Georgiev.