ER reduces opioid use by more than half with dry needles, laughing gas

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, according to numbers provided by St. Joseph’s Healthcare System’s chair of emergency medicine, Dr. Mark Rosenberg.

“There is a complete change in philosophy, a complete change in culture in the department,” says Rosenberg, who launched the Alternatives to Opiates program in 2016 with Dr. Alexis LaPietra, the medical director of pain management in the emergency department.

Read more at NPR