Dr. Peggy Compton, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert in the opioid crisis, was kind enough to share her knowledge on this topic with me in a conversation. Dr. Compton has published research on addiction, pain, and opioids, has worked for 30 years in the addiction field, and continues to contribute to the growing knowledge about this epidemic. During this conversation, Dr. Compton explained the current trends on this epidemic.
Dr. Compton first talked about the current messages that are being given to physicians and nurse practitioners about opioid prescriptions. Prescribers are being encouraged to decrease their prescribing rates, and while there has been a decrease in the number of opioids prescribed, patients who need these opioids for pain and who are not misusing their medications are being affected too. Dr. Compton noted that instead of tapering everybody off of opioids, patients should be assessed for risk factors. If a patient is at high risk of addiction, then the prescriber can find an alternative method for treatment.
Dr. Compton also discussed the current research on alternative methods for pain treatment. She is working with Dr. Joseph Myers, an anesthesiologist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who is performing surgeries without opioids. By avoiding opioids during surgeries, it is believed that patients avoid the risk of becoming hyperalgesic. Hyperalgesia is an opioid-induced condition where, paradoxically, patients receiving opioids for treatment of pain become more sensitive to painful stimuli. As hyperalgesia is one of Dr. Compton’s major fields of research, she is hopeful about Dr. Myers’s to reduce opioid use in surgeries.
Overall, speaking with Dr. Compton was very informative as she gave me her first-hand knowledge about addiction, pain, and opioids. More research is still needed to fully understand this epidemic, but people like Dr. Compton are helping us better understand this area of healthcare.