> Skip repeated content
Photo of Laurie Oestreich on a golf course

The Opioid Crisis: Patient Safety and Education

This national public health emergency affects millions of Americans. The amount of opioids prescribed tripled between 1999 and 2015, and it’s now recognized that these medications, though quite effective for some types of pain, pose serious risks. Along with dependence and addiction, users may also experience a lesser-known adverse effect that can actually increase the amount of pain they feel (a condition called opioid-induced hyperalgesia).

The consequences have been devastating. In 2016 more than 11 million people reported misusing prescribed opioids like hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine, many of them by taking a friend’s or relative’s pills to relieve pain. Heroin and now fentanyl use has soared in recent years as opioid overprescribing was reduced. More than 2 million people have developed an opioid use disorder with 115 people dying every day from an overdose.

What do you need to know about opioids and surgery?

At HSS, our clinicians are committed to managing postsurgical and chronic pain safely and effectively, while working with patients to minimize the risks of opioid use. When it comes to surgery and opioids:

  • our surgeons and anesthesiologists are experts in employing a variety of pain-management treatments, including multimodal approaches that combine non-opioid pain medications with therapies such as nerve blocks given by injection or catheter.
  • when possible, our clinicians seek to reduce or eliminate patients’ exposure to opioid pain medications before and after surgery.
  • as a surgical patient at HSS you receive a preoperative screening, in which your clinical team determines the best pain-management approach for your recovery.

Visit our guide on Opioids and Your Recovery for more details on opioid prescribing, risks, and disposing of unused opioid pills. More educational resources including articles, blogs and videos are featured below.


Photo of Seth Waldman
Preoperative evaluation is a complex and holistic process that considers not only medical, surgical and social issues, but also factors in each patient’s past experience with pain. This evaluation is now a part of our workflow, reflecting our overall goal of providing the best care with the least risk.

Seth Waldman, MD
Director, HSS Pain Management Division



If you or someone you know struggles with opioids, please reach out for help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information helpline (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Call 1.800.662.HELP (4357)


Opioid Safety and Education Articles

Support Group Summaries

Opioid and Chronic Pain: Special Publications

HealthConnection Fall 2017 Newsletter

Approaches to Pain Management

HealthConnection Spring 2017 Newsletter

Managing Narcotics and Opioids for Chronic Pain (en Español)


Posts from HSS


Health Video Library

Complementary Alternatives in Pain Management (20 mins)
Nancy O’Brien, C-IAYT

Exercises and Mind Body Approaches for Avoiding Pain (11mins)
Giusi Gerbino, PT, DPT

Facebook Live Videos

Dr. Seth Waldman FB Live

Discussion on Opioids

In this Facebook Live video, Seth Waldman, MD, Director of the HSS Division of Pain Management, discusses the opioid health crisis in the historical context of pain management over the past few decades and key opioid side effects, such as tolerance and addiction.



Drs. Doyle and DelPizzo FB Live

Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery & Anesthesiology

Pediatric orthopedist Dr. Shevaun Doyle and anesthesiologist Dr. Kate DelPizzo discuss how HSS reduces the need for opioids during and after surgery in children.



Drs. Hannafin and Kumar FB Live

Managing Pain Post-Surgery

In this Facebook Live video, sports medicine physician Dr. Jo Hannafin and anesthesiologist Dr. Kanupriya Kumar discuss how to manage postsurgical pain while avoiding health risks associated with narcotic pain medications (opioids).