AKRON, Ohio — Summa Health System has drastically reduced the use of opioids in surgeries at all of its hospitals as a direct result of the opioid crisis.
In 2017, Summa used narcotics in 98 percent of procedures, but now that number stands at 20 percent.
By the end of the year, the goal is to use narcotics in 10 percent or less of all surgeries.
"My goal is to eliminate the opiates from what we do in the operating room completely," said Dr. Thomas Mark, the chairman of the anesthesiology department at Summa Health.
Mark said studies show addiction can start with just one dose of an opioid during surgery for up to six percent of patients.
"That's unacceptable. We do 20,000 cases here at Summa. That means just because somebody had the audacity to have surgery, 450 people potentially face addiction," Mark said.
Instead of relying on opiates, Summa is using regional blocks with local anesthetic that can last 24 to 36 hours, a continuous peripheral nerve block that can deliver medication directly to an affected area of the body, or a combination of over-the-counter pills, therapy and a pain management approach.
Mark said he's also stressing to surgeons to cut down on the number of pain pills prescribed to patients after surgery - a trend he believes must continue to reduce the number of people who get hooked on narcotics and overdose.
For many people, pain pill addiction becomes a gateway to more dangerous drugs like heroin.
Nicole, a 32-year-old woman from Stow, told News 5 she became hooked on pain pills about 10 years ago.
"I would get them off the street and basically buy scripts off people," she said.
She overdosed once on heroin and a second time on carfentanil, but has been clean for more than two years.
"I basically have to take it one day at a time and work with others to keep my sobriety."
Since the changes, Summa reports a a higher satisfaction rating and patients returning home much earlier due to quicker recovery times.
Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center has reduced the use of narcotics in colorectal surgeries to 17 percent and has also decreased opioid use in breast and bariatric procedures.
On March 5, the city of Green, the drug task force and Summa Health will discuss pre-operative and post-operative non-opioid pain management at Green City Hall. The event runs from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.