Moms Are Becoming Addicted to Opioids After C-Sections — But a New Drug May Be the Answer

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Editor’s note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.

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On the way home from the hospital after my second C-section, my husband, newborn, and I stopped at the pharmacy to drop off the prescription my doctor had given to me. It was for 60 Percocet. As a person who was experiencing minimal recovery pain, I knew the number was extreme. But as an opioid addict, I was elated.

I wasn’t the only new mother in the U.S. sent home from her C-section with an excessive number of opioids, though. According to a new study published just last month, 75 percent of women who used prescribed opioids after their C-sections did not use all of their pills, and of those, 63 percent stored their remaining pills in an unlocked location.

But those leftover pills are part of what’s contributed to the opioid crisis that’s now sweeping the country. According to a government study, 71 percent of people who abused pain medication did so with pills that were not prescribed to them. And while that’s not how I personally began abusing prescription pills, asking friends for their pills or even stealing from them is certainly how I supplemented my supply.

But there’s one doctor who’s on a crusade to make sure unused opioids no longer exist in the homes of new mothers — by never sending them home in the first place. And, with the help of a new drug, he claims to have a 100 percent success rate.

For the last seven months, Texas OB-GYN Dr. Richard Chudacoff has been treating his patients who receive C-sections with EXPAREL, an injectable, nonnarcotic medication that minimizes or even eliminates pain completely — and they’ve been amazed by their speedy and pain-free recovery.

EXPAREL works by targeting the muscle pain directly. Opioids, however, work very differently; they stop pain signals in the brain all together.

Dr. Chudacoff tells me that after he successfully delivers a baby via C-section, he begins suturing the mother’s womb back together. It’s at this point, right during the surgery, that he administers the EXPAREL. He makes multiple injections in a circular motion around the incision site to numb it fully. Because it’s in a targeted area, this is called a local anesthetic.

The key to EXPAREL’s success is due to a long-acting agent called bupivacaine. This specially-formulated ingredient slowly releases over time, controlling pain in a single dose. One application of EXPAREL usually controls pain for 72-96 hours, which allows for more healing. A typical analgesic, or pain reliever, however, only works for about 4-6 hours. The long-lasting effect of just one dosage is exceptionally helpful, since the doctor doesn’t need to use IV medications or any other restraint that inhibits a patient’s ability to get out of bed in order to extend pain control.

EXPAREL starts controlling pain during surgery, even before a patient is aware they’re having

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