New Pain Control Methods Could Reduce Dependence of Patients – and Hospitals – on Opioids

News Brief by Mohamad Hamze

       A New Jersey hospital has recently revealed its strategy for cutting down on the amount of opioids prescribed to patients. St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, NJ has begun using nitrous oxide – laughing gas­ – in place of traditional prescription painkillers in an attempt to prevent opioid related addiction and deaths. The new method would involve nitrous oxide gas administration in place of standard opioid IV injections while in the ER, relieving patients’ pain while keeping them from the slippery slope of OxyContin, Percocet, or Vicodin regiments that would generally be prescribed following their discharge.

        The growing issue with opioid use can be traced back to hospitals themselves. Prescribing opiates has often been seen by hospitals as a severance of ties with the patient; as long as the pain is managed, the hospital and the patient are happy, even if it means giving the patient as much medicine as they feel they need. As such, many institutions have incorporated policies that try alternative methods first, and wherever possible. However, physicians argue against the possibility of eliminating opioids completely. Dr. John Markman of the University of Rochester believes that ERs must still keep opioid prescriptions on the table, as “there are many patients in the right context and in the right hands who can benefit.” While many hospitals are taking small steps towards opioid avoidance, they will continue to explore the delicate balance between alternative therapies and traditional methods with the patients in mind


Lo Wang, Hansi. "No Joke: N.J. Hospital Uses Laughing Gas To Cut Down On Opioid Use." NPR. NPR, 1 Apr. 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2016