Doctors and first responders work to combat opioid problem

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — In order to combat the opioid epidemic in the Tennessee Valley, doctors and first responders have had to take different approaches.

Emergency responders in Hamilton County are seeing the effects of the opioid epidemic first hand.

“It is deadly. It is killing people. It is something we are try to counter effect,” said Ken Wilkerson, Director of Emergency Medical Services in Hamilton County.

First responders are now equipped with tools to reverse overdoses.

“By giving the Narcan we are effectively continuing the breathing process, which lets the patient survive that narcotic,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson says it doesn’t have any negative effect on the patient.

“There is no getting sick. It basically put the patient into the effect of where they are no longer under the effect of that narcotic. The worst thing that happens in those situations is they may go through withdrawal.”

Dr. John Blake, who specializes in pain management, says prescribing certain painkillers depends on the nature of the injury.

“You first have to decide whether this is an acute or a chronic problem. Most of the time acute injuries are fairly easy to figure out why they are having their symptoms. A lot of what you see is acute post operative pain and acute traumatic pain and that is fairly easy to figure out how they are hurting. You just have to treat that as best as you can. Opioids are commonly used for that, but there are also a lot of other medications such as anti inflammatory that can be very effective for that,” Dr. Blake said.

Dr. Blake says the opioid problem has made them prescribe more cautiously.

“I think as a medical community we are making a lot of changes in how we think about opioids and their risk of abuse and addiction. I know there have been lots of changes in the way the medical community has changed how we write opioids, how much of them we write, what we do before and after we write an opioid,” Dr. Blake said.

He wants to acknowledge there are people who use the medication appropriately.

“I think we do need to be aware of the prescription opioid epidemic that we have in our state and in our nation. It is important that we realize that there are a lot of chronic pain patients that do take chronic opioids that are not drug addicts, that take these medications because they improve their ability to function, their ability to go to work and live relatively normal lives,” Dr. Blake said.

Categories: Hamilton County, Local News

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