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Jeanne Antolchick: Empowering Patients — Florida allows choice of non-opioid alternatives to pain medication, anesthesia

It is definitely “time to act.”

This week thousands of people across the nation whose lives have been impacted by substance use remembered a loved one during the International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31.

The theme this year is “Time to Remember, Time to Act.” And, the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists (FANA), representing more than 5,400 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), has been doing its part to continue to educate and empower patients about non-opioid alternatives available to them during the course of their anesthesia and medical treatment.

Florida is one of only a handful of states in the country that has adopted a non-opioid alternatives law, which gives patients the right to request that no opioids are administered without a conversation occurring with their health care providers.

As highly educated anesthesia providers, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are part of the vanguard of health care providers who are providing alternatives to opioids during both the anesthetic and during the postoperative care period.

FANA is proud to have played a role in bringing this issue to the forefront. This law came to fruition after FANA reached out to Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Scott Plakon and worked with them to spearhead the nonopioid alternatives measure, which was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in June 2019.

As an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology with Barry University’s Nurse Anesthesiology Programs, I am an advocate of shared decision-making between patients and their anesthesia providers and led this initiative.

It is important to remind Floridians that it is OK to ask your health care provider questions about medications and treatments.

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has developed and published on its website an educational pamphlet regarding the use of non-opioid alternatives to treat pain. The law also requires that health care providers discuss non-opioid alternatives with a patient prior to prescribing an opioid; to provide a copy of the DOH-developed pamphlet to the patient; and, to document the discussion in the patient’s medical record.

It is important to note that these requirements do not apply to emergency care and services when health care providers have only seconds to make lifesaving decisions.

As a health care provider, I have always believed that patients should be empowered to make medical decisions during the course of their treatment based on the facts and their preferences. The current non-opioid alternatives law provides patients and health care providers with the tool they need to make informed decisions about the treatment options.

For example, if a patient is recovering from a substance use problem, and has to undergo surgery, he or she is now able to have a frank discussion with their health care provider to explore non-opioid alternatives to anesthesia and postoperative pain management.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this national crisis claims approximately 116 lives a day. More than 760,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. In 2018, two out of three drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. It is definitely “time to act.”

CRNAs are educated and trained to safely administer anesthesia and pain medications. We know that research shows many people suffering from opioid dependence were first exposed through a legitimate prescription received from a health care provider who was treating them for pain, an injury, surgery or a dental procedure. That is why we believe Floridians deserve to know that there are many ways to manage both acute and chronic pain conditions that do not involve opioids.

It is our hope that this law continues to make a difference in the lives of Floridians and the families who have loved ones struggling with a substance use disorder.

For more information about non-opioid alternatives click here or visit fana.org.

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Jeanne Antolchick Ph.D., APRN, CRNA is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology with Barry University’s Nurse Anesthesiology Programs.

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