The use of opioids in the perioperative period is associated with respiratory depression, impaired gastrointestinal function, post-operative nausea and vomiting (PONV), pruritus, urinary retention, delirium and the potential for developing opioid addiction. Currently the United States is experiencing an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and deaths from overdose. Many addicts develop their addiction during a routine surgical admission to hospital. More people now die from overdose of synthetic prescription opioids than from heroin and other street drugs. Public education campaigns teaching family members of addicts to reverse opioid induced respiratory depression with naloxone are currently underway. Preventing the development of addiction in the first place during and after the surgical admission however will be more successful at saving lives. Primary prevention of opioid addiction is possible when non-opioid analgesic drugs are used. Employing alternative analgesic drugs in the peri-operative period that have a lower addiction potential and less respiratory depression has therefore become a matter of great national importance. Many powerful non-opioid analgesics are currently available that have more favorable side effect profiles and a lower potential for developing addiction. However, these medications are currently not used as often in routine clinical practice as they should be. Replacing opioids with other analgesics will not only reduce the development of opioid addiction but will also lead to better perioperative outcomes and enhanced patient recovery. This article briefly reviews the opioid alternatives that can significantly reduce or even entirely eliminate the perioperative use of opioids in the majority of surgical procedures.
Keywords: Analgesia; Opioids; Perioperative.