HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

Intermountain Healthcare Announces First Ever ‘Opioid-Free Surgery’ Program

Feb 26, 2020, 7:22 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 3:05 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Intermountain Healthcare became the first health system in Utah to establish an “opioid-free surgery” program for patients looking for alternative pain control methods.

Officials introduced the new program Wednesday, saying it was the first health system in the state to establish a program of its kind.

They said the program allows doctors to prescribe other drugs and nerve blockers to ease pain, without using opioids.

Sitting in a hospital room full of doctors wasn’t what Jason Zeeman ever thought he’d be doing. He figured he’d be lying down because of his addictions.

“I’ve struggled with addiction on and off for 28 years,” said Zeeman.

Yet, there he was in the hospital room during a news conference, even speaking about his own opioid addiction.

“I learned very quickly that addiction to opiates is very real,” said Zeeman.

Like tens of thousands of Utah residents battling opioid addiction, Zeeman first got them during and after a surgery. From that point on, he was hooked.

Jason Zeeman is an example of what this new "opioid-free surgery" program is all about. He had surgery several years ago and got addicted to opioids. Dr. Nathan Richards and Dr. Will Shakespeare talk about the new program at Intermountain Healthcare.

“Doctors were prescribing me 120 pills a week,” he said. “My opioid addiction has lasted for years and years and years. It progressed to heroin.”

Ultimately, his addiction turned to crime and landed him in jail. When he got out, he got help, and has lived clean ever since, but when he recently went in for another surgery, doctors offered opioids to ease his pain.

“I told them I don’t want opiates,” he said.

Zeeman was surprised to find out Intermountain Healthcare had started the new program.

Since this past October, nearly 250 procedures have been done with patients who wanted to be part of the new opioid-free surgery program. 

“We thought that for all these years, we were putting water on the fire, when in fact, it was gasoline,” said Dr. Will Shakespeare, MD, who helped develop the new program with Intermountain Healthcare.

Doctors said it took a new way of thinking with a team willing to combat the opioid epidemic head on.

Instead, doctors prescribe other drugs and nerve blockers that don’t have the addictive qualities opioids do.

They’re maybe not as strong as opioids, but doctors said they’re working.

“An overwhelming response – 86% of those polled – said that their pain was adequately controlled, if not even better,” said Dr. Nathan Richards, who also helped to create the new program.

Doctors estimate since they started limiting opioids a couple of years ago, millions of pills haven’t been prescribed that normally would have been.

“Our efforts for two years have been really focusing on eliminating, or getting rid of, any excess opioids in the community. We’re really proud to say that, over these two years, we’ve decreased the number of opioids we’ve prescribed by 7 million tablets,” said Dr. Richards.

Zeeman said he just wished that option was available all those years ago.

“It would’ve made a huge difference,” he said.

Patients can still be prescribed opioids if they choose, but doctors said they are doing a better job of keeping the number of pills under control.

KSL 5 TV Live

Healthy Mind Matters

Lauren Hess has struggled with depression since she was a teen. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects...

Emma Benson

‘You can actually find joy again’: Why Utahns are at higher risk for seasonal affective disorder, how to cope

Seasonal affective disorder affects about 10% of Utahns, according to a Huntsman Mental Health Institute doctor.

26 days ago

(Safe2Feel)...

Tamara Vaifanua

Free SAFE2FEEL conference teaches coping, confidence-building skills

Mental health experts say there’s an epidemic of loneliness. 

1 month ago

(Laura Warburton)...

Emma Benson

‘Because of Hannah’: Utah mom who lost daughter to suicide provides resources for others

Laura Warburton remembers her daughter, Hannah, as a warrior.

3 months ago

SafeUT app...

Logan Stefanich, KSL.com 

SafeUT app sees ‘record-breaking’ use in 2023

The SafeUT app saw "record-breaking" utilization during 2023, program leaders and partners announced Tuesday.

4 months ago

Kelsey (left) and Wendy Fayle (right) holding up a NAMI sign. (Courtesy: Wendy Fayle)...

Candice Madsen, KSL TV

NAMI Utah offers free classes for parents and adolescents dealing with mental illness

NAMI is offering free classes for both parents and adolescents that are dealing with mental illness.

4 months ago

YCC text messages...

Alex Cabrero

YCC Family Crisis Center in Ogden now accepting text messages

It is certainly not the easiest job out there. Amber Paaso will be the first to tell you she's burned out of doing it in the past. 

4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Intermountain Healthcare Announces First Ever ‘Opioid-Free Surgery’ Program