Opioids are commonly prescribed in orthopaedics for acute or chronic pain for a variety of conditions, including injury, trauma, degenerative processes, and postsurgical. Patients who are taking opioids because of a substance use disorder (SUD) are also seen in orthopaedics. Patients who are prescribed opioids are at risk of developing an opioid use disorder (OUD). Ten percent of Americans will develop an SUD, which is considered a chronic medical condition that develops due to an imbalance in brain chemistry. In studies, orthopaedic surgeons have a high rate of prescribing opioids, but this rate is decreasing along with national average due to public and provider awareness of the opioid epidemic and professional recommendations. Despite the evidence of a neurobiological cause for SUDs, stigma toward patients with SUDs and a knowledge deficit are common among healthcare professionals, including orthopaedic nurses. A harm reduction approach when working with orthopaedic patients taking opioids either prescribed or used because of an OUD can be applied to reduce the problematic effects of opioids. Harm reduction strategies are supportive to the patient and include education and prevention, adopting evidence-based treatment and communication strategies, and the use of naloxone to prevent opioid overdose.
Julie Worley, PhD, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, CARN-AP, Associate Professor, Rush University, and Clinical Practice, Rosecrance, Chicago, IL.
The author has disclosed no conflicts of interest.