NPR

ER Reduces Opioid Use By More Than Half With Dry Needles, Laughing Gas

Opioid prescriptions in one of the busiest emergency rooms in the U.S dropped 58 percent in the first year of an unusual program to help stem the opioid epidemic. More hospitals are copying the model.
Francisco Hidalgo prepares to receive a trigger point injection from Dr. Alexis LaPietra (right) at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., while Dr. Tyler Manis observes. An alternative to opioids, the trigger point injection involves dry needling to stop pain from a muscle spasm and a shot of local anesthetic for the soreness from the needle. Source: Hansi Lo Wang

NPR's "Take A Number" series is exploring problems around the world — and solutions — through the lens of a single number.

One of the places many people are first prescribed opioids is a hospital emergency room. But in one of the busiest ERs in the U.S., doctors are relying less than they used to on oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin and other opioids to ease patients' pain.

In an unusual program designed to help stem the opioid epidemic, the emergency department at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., has been exploring alternative painkillers and methods. That strategy has led to a 58 percent drop in the ER's opioid prescriptions in the program's first year,.

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