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Mayo Clinic addresses opioid epidemic in National Health Checkup

"The medical community has a responsibility to help solve this epidemic," Dr. Halena Gazelka, a pain doctor at Mayo Clinic, said.

Posted: Oct. 23, 2018 10:20 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - A new Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup finds new information when it comes to the national opioid epidemic.

Mayo Clinic surveys people throughout the country to get a pulse on America's health.

According to the survey, nearly all Americans would choose an alternative to opioid pain relievers following surgery. However, few patients are actually talking to their doctors about this.

Dr. Halena Gazelka is a pain doctor at Mayo Clinic. She thinks it's the doctor's responsibility to give the options, but patients need to ask the questions.

"There's a lot of fear that people have heard a lot about opioids and I think there's just becoming sort of a stigma associated with that term," Gazelka said. "So it doesn't even mean they know which medications are opioids, but when they hear the word opioid it's sort of a 'oh that's a bad word.'"

If you are a patient with pain, you're urged to ask your doctor about alternatives to opioids such as physical therapy, acupuncture, and other medications.

Gazelka said the lack of awareness about opioid abuse risks and society's expectations are playing a part.

"We have this expectation that if I have pain it must be treated. That it's OK to treat it with an opioid pain medication no matter what the pain is and no matter for how long. It's just simply not true. We've put patients at risk and the medical community has a responsibility to help solve this epidemic," Gazelka said.

When it comes to disposing of unwanted prescriptions, including opioids, National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, Oct. 27.

In Rochester, the drop-off site is located at Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW. It goes from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

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