COVINGTON, Ga. - From 1999 to 2010, opioid-related deaths in Georgia increased by 500 percent. In 2016, there were close to 1,000 deaths involving opioids in the state and those numbers are continuing to increase. Facing those statistics and knowing that all healthcare systems need to play a role in attempting to stem this epidemic, Piedmont Healthcare is examining its pain management policies and connecting its hospitals with stakeholders in the community in an effort to address this crisis.
National Drug Take Back Day, which is sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is Saturday, April 27, and will feature activities between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Local law enforcement agencies will provide a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs. The majority of teenagers abusing prescription drugs get them from the home medicine cabinet. Using pharmaceutical drugs without a prescription or a doctor’s supervision can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose and abuse.
“One of the most important things we can do as individuals, especially as we try to protect our families and children, is to dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired prescription drugs,” Piedmont Newton CEO Eric Bour, MD said. “That’s why we’re supporting the efforts of our local public safety departments and letting our community know about National Drug Take Back Day and what they can do on a personal level.”
Take Back Day locations for Newton County include the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and Westside precinct and the Social Circle Police Department.
In 2018, Take Back Day brought in more than 900,000 pounds of unused or expired prescription medication. Disposing of those drugs safely keeps them off the streets and protects the environment as well. On its website for Take Back Day, the DEA has a collection site locator that allows individuals to find the closest take back sites to where they live: https://takebackday.dea.gov/.
“There are times when the use of opioids is appropriate and necessary, but Piedmont’s new protocols, created by its physician leaders in consultation with clinical staff, will consider non-opioids and alternate pain management modalities such as topical therapy, local injections, massage, physical therapy and more,” Piedmont Newton Chief Medical Officer Norris Little, MD said. “Piedmont will also focus on establishing system-wide standardization and coordination of prescribing protocols in key risk areas.”
From a system level, Piedmont, the largest healthcare provider in Georgia, convened an Opioids Task Force in 2018 and is seeking to provide patients with optimal pain management while preventing the potential for opioid abuse. One of the key tenets to Piedmont’s plan is to increase education and awareness among both patients and staff.
“It is important to reduce the stigma around opioid addiction,” Little said. “Unfortunately this is a sweeping epidemic, one that is affecting people across the country, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. No one person, organization, city or state can tackle it alone, but Piedmont Newton is proud to join our sister hospitals and play a role alongside our patients and partners in the community.”