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Doctors Uniquely Positioned to Reduce Painkiller Misuse

  • Twenty-two thousand people die every year from opioid pain medications. That's 60 deaths every day.

    The opioid epidemic has been described as the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Experts at the National Safety Council believe physicians can be leaders in attacking this epidemic by embracing new research on opioids and modifying old prescribing habits.

    There is no evidence that long-term opioid use is effective at reducing chronic pain. In fact, there is new evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that using an opioid for more than seven days doubles the chance of use one year later.

    Studies show opioids are less effective than over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen. One of the most effective pain relief options is one Extra-Strength Tylenol taken with one Advil.

    Read: Evidence for the Efficacy of Pain Medications

    Opioid Side Effects


    Too often, medical providers do not fully consider side effects when prescribing opioids. Providers may be familiar with constipation, nausea and vomiting that result from use of opioids, but there are many more potential areas of concern.

    Many prescribers are not aware that issuing even one opioid prescription can delay recovery, increase medical costs and increase the risks of future disability and addiction. Opioids should be used only when indicated and in small doses for the least amount of time possible.

    Read: The Psychological and Physical Side Effects of Pain Medications

    How NSC is Working to Improve Pain Management


    Through a speaker's bureau program established by NSC, doctors are available to share best practices for pain management with other medical professionals at no cost. Three presentations are currently available:

    • The Opioid Crisis: Considerations for Prescribers provides an overview of alternatives to opioid pain relievers, reviews national, state, medical society and local opioid prescribing guidelines and patient safety precautions. This presentation also addresses naloxone use and evidence-based opioid use disorder treatment.
    • The Role of the Prescriber in Pain Management describes in depth the range of pain management options, including non-opioid drug classes, non-pharmacologic and interventional treatments. A key component addresses how to manage and safely taper inherited patients on high-opioid dosages and when to refer patients to pain management or substance use treatment.
    • The Opioid Crisis: Considerations for Prescribers in the Acute Care Setting discusses the management of acute pain, overviews the efficacy of pain medications and alternatives to opioids, reviews the national, state, medical society and local opioid prescribing guidelines. This presentation also discusses care considerations for naloxone use for overdose treatment.

    Meet Our Speaker's Bureau


    • Dr. Ezekiel Fink collaborates and partners extensively with clinical and public health entities, including the CDC, the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Safety Council, on issues regarding the opioid epidemic and proper opioid prescribing. He also oversees pain management for the Houston Methodist Health System.
    • Dr. Natalie Kirilichin, MD, is an emergency physician at George Washington University Hospital and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. She directs the GWU School of Medicine's Health Policy Scholarly Concentration, serves as president-elect of the D.C. Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and has worked extensively on mental health and substance abuse legislation impacting the opioid epidemic as a Health Policy Fellow for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
    • Dr. Alaa Abd-Elsayed oversees pain management for the University of Wisconsin Health System and is an active clinical investigator. His research interests include opioid response and the management of neuropathic pain.

    For more information on how to book a presentation, email rxsafety@nsc.org.

    Safe Prescribing Guidelines and Training


    Healthcare providers and patients often find chronic pain to be challenging. The CDC highlights three main focus areas in its safe prescribing guideline:

    • Determining when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain
    • Opioid selection, dosage, duration, follow-up and discontinuation
    • Assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use

    Check out additional resources and tools on CDC's new mobile app.

    Watch: The CDC partnered with the University of Washington to develop a webinar training series with an objective of providing content that will demonstrate and instruct participants how to incorporate the 12 CDC recommendations for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

  • Doctors Offer Solution to Opioid Epidemic

    Dr. Timothy McConnell (left) and Dr. Glenn Waters of Cincinnati are revolutionizing post-operative pain treatment to solve America's prescription drug epidemic.

    Learn More
  • From Skeptic to Believer

    ​Meet a doctor who reversed his long-held belief that opioid pain medications were the only way to treat post-operative pain.

    Hear his Story
  • How Opioids Delay Recovery from Injury or Surgery


    ​We think opioids will solve all pain problems. In fact, they actually can derail recovery efforts. Taking opioids even prior to orthopedic surgery causes worse outcomes. Learn more.

  • How Opioid Prescriptions Can Lead to Addiction


    ​Many people who are addicted to opioids start with a legitimate prescription from their provider. These medications should be prescribed and refilled with caution. Learn more.

  • How to Treat Opioid Painkiller Misuse


    ​Opioid painkiller addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. Usually, medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone are needed to treat it. Learn more.

  • How Opioids are Powerful Psychotherapeutic Agents


    ​The psychotherapeutic effects of opioid medications are probably more significant than the pain relieving effects. This is both good and bad. Learn more.

  • ​Why opioids cause more deaths than NSAIDs


    ​Prescribers are often concerned about the side-effects of NSAIDs. But opioids are much riskier and dangerous to prescribe. Learn why.

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The National Safety Council eliminates preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

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