Play 11: Encourage the use of non-opioid formulations for pain management

As it has become clear that longterm pain management using opioids increases the likelihood of substance use disorders, research has intensified on finding effective alternatives. Meanwhile, there are already significant, evidence-based alternatives that physicians are finding useful. The CDC offers recommendations that highlight and underscore the need to utilize alternative, non-opioid pharmacologic therapies to treat chronic pain.

A strategy on this topic involves educating both physicians and patients on the options available and their consequences (strength, side effects, etc.). Health care providers can develop and set guidelines that call for the use of non-opioid alternatives. This strategy would include efforts required to stay current with the emerging research and development of new alternatives for pain management, including from the various aggressive research programs undertaken by the National Institutes of Health and the CDC.

Example: The University of Tennessee Medical Center has developed a protocol of alternative pathways, giving priority to non-opioid treatments. The program is described in a video.

Goals and Objectives
The goal for this play is to develop and institutionalize practices across the health care continuum that minimize the use of opioid-based treatments where possible and appropriate. The objective is to put in place protocols for the active consideration of alternative therapies.

Theory of Change
Substituting alternative treatments for opioid-based pain management will result in fewer patients who develop substance use disorders resulting from long-term reliance on opioids.