Undergoing surgery is painful for anyone, and a healthy recovery is the important time. But what if you suffer from addiction to opioids? As part of our series, A Shot in the Dark: Shedding Light on the Opioid Crisis, KSN’s Austin Hyslip explores how doctors at Freeman Health System are dealing with this in Joplin.

“It’s a challenge,” said Dr. Brian Curtis, Neurosurgeon.

Prescribing medication to any patient after surgery is a careful and well calculated process, but addiction to opioids can make the process that much harder.

“Surgery always adds a lot of pain,” said Dr. Curtis.

And doctors work very hard to make sure there is some relief.

“So, as physicians, what we do is we try to give regional anesthesia. We give a shot in the shoulder if you’re having shoulder surgery, spinal if you’re having babies or hip surgeries, or these types of things. So, it doesn’t get into your entire system, just your local area,” Dr. Curtis explained. 

That helps with any existing or possible addictions, but the road to recovery minus the opioids starts immediately after the operation.

“We try to give effective medications after surgery. We get the patient mobilizing, walk around. Help that injury in that tissue gets circulation to it and to have other medicines, besides the opioids, and basically get the patient moving,” he said. 

That’s the easier part.

“Once they are home, that’s the area of addiction,” said Dr. Curtis. 

So, stopping addiction starts the minute the scalpel comes out.

“As long as you have addressed the pain appropriately in surgery than afterwards, you taper them down and it’s better for them,” he said. 

And the doctor is always paying attention.

“We always have our ear to the ground to make sure we’re not continuing a problem, but we are treating through a problem,” said Dr. Curtis.