WHY DO HOSPITALS PUSH DRUGS?
They took my appendix out last week.
A hole here, a hole there, a hole in the middle and -- presto chango -- it was gone.
There was little discomfort or inconvenience, and mostly I felt bad for taking up a bed. It had been coming on for a week, and gotten uncomfortable a couple of days before, and then it was pretty clear what it was and, when work was done, I went to the emergency room.
A couple of hours later they had the diagnosis and they stood next to the gurney to tell me what was going to happen.
And I told them what was going to happen. Or what wasn't going to happen.
I told them -- that first doctor, and the two doctors and two nurses who would follow over the next 36 hours -- that I didn't want any opiates. No oxy, no fentanyl, no nothing like that. I said I'd rather hurt than be hooked, and it was important to me, and I didn't want any.
Mostly they nodded knowingly.
And everything went great.
Sure, they manscaped me without telling me, and the intubation kind of messed up my voice for a bit, but inasmuch as they essentially saved my life, I didn't have any complaints. The service was good, the food was good, the outcome was good.
And the second morning they got ready to discharge me.
One lady told me they would send me home with some pain medicine. I asked what kind. It was oxycodone. I said I didn't want any. She responded nonspecifically. Later, just before I left, a lady read over some paperwork with me explaining what my prescriptions would be.
One was an antibiotic, because the appendix had broken open a bit.
The other was an opiate.
I said I didn't want it. She said it was just normal procedure, and it was better to be safe than sorry.
I agreed, it was better to be safe than sorry, and I didn't want any.
They told me that because of something with my insurance, their pharmacy couldn't fill my prescriptions -- which would have automatically been given to me -- so I asked them to send the prescriptions to my home pharmacy.
Again, I told them I did not want a pain killer prescription, and I especially did not want an opiate, and that I wouldn't fill it if they sent it.
A couple of hours later I was standing at the counter at my home pharmacy.
They had two bottles for me.
The antibiotic and the oxycodone.
A big bottle of oxycodone.
I said, "No, thank you," and they understood and agreed.
And when I recounted my repeated efforts to decline the opiate prescription they said they see it all the time.
Which bothers me.
People are dying left and right. Mothers are on the news showing pictures of their dead children. The fatal overdose rate has doubled in many areas, and that's in spite of the antidote that most cops and firefighters now carry.
Good, law-abiding people are being led to heroin by seemingly innocent prescriptions for pain killers. High school athletes, weekend warriors, folks who've had surgery. Dr. Feel Good writes them a big script and halfway through the first refill they're hooked.
Which is why it astounds me that the hospital that gave me such good care -- the University of Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital -- should so cavalierly and carelessly pump opiates into patients and society. It seemed to be the policy of the hospital to send oxycodone home with minor-surgery patients as a matter of course. It was just their routine.
My surgery left me with almost no discomfort whatsoever. The occasional twinge was handled pretty good by ibuprofen. I was nowhere near needing an opiate. But I was written up for one "just in case."
A person less insistent on not taking it would probably have acquiesced, defering to the apparent judgment of the doctor. If the doctor gives it to me, the reasoning would go, then I must need it.
That runs the risk of addicting an innocent patient.
Then there are the not-so-innocent patients, who might purposely abuse the drug, or sell it on the street.
That's almost what bothered me the most. Giving away a bottle of oxy as a parting gift seems like a pretty good source for the illegal drug trade.
Who knows what damage those needlessly prescribed pills might do, or even what lives they may take.
I think high-power pain killers are for special situations.
My minor surgery was not a special situation.
I believe my hospital was irresponsible for prescribing me an opiate. I am grateful I did not fill the prescription. I fear that many others fill theirs routinely.
We are facing an epidemic, and the same people charged with fighting it may inadvertently have a hand in starting it.
And they should change.
Doctors and hospitals should stop being the gateway suppliers to opiate addiction. They should not prescribe opiates unless the patient truly needs them, and is professionally counseled on their safe use.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2016