CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A groundbreaking scientific effort in Charlotte could have a national impact on the opioid crisis.
The first study of its kind is launching this month to look at completely removing opioids as a pain treatment for patients. Instead, doctors will be using other less addictive medicines in the study.
Doctors will be using a combination of medicines, including household items, like Tylenol.
It’s already being called life-changing by a local mother, whose son is addicted to heroin.
“If you don’t get clean you either die from this drug or end up in prison,” says Donna Philbeck.
Donna Philbeck says she saw her little boy who loved baseball turn into a man behind bars.
“My youngest son is a heroin addict,” says Philbeck. When she hears the word ‘opioid’, she says “I cringe, I get angry, I get sad.”
Philbeck tells NBC Charlotte the downward spiral began after her son, Casey, had surgery at 14 years old.
“They give you this bottle of pills and say, ‘take two every four hours and stay in front of the pain’, and as a good mom I did what the doctor said,” Philbeck told NBC Charlotte.
However, now Charlotte doctors are studying a groundbreaking alternative to opioids.
“This is the first study of its kind,” says Dr. Nady Hamid, a physician with Ortho Carolina.
Dr. Hamid is heading the study which looks at using less addictive treatments instead of opioids; a combination of medicines, including household names like Tylenol.
“We are going to completely eliminate opioid use altogether,” says Dr. Hamid.
“It’s amazing that we have the potential to change these lives before this happens,” says Philbeck.
A sample study already shows positive results for 65 patients needing shoulder replacement surgery.
“[They] had either less or equal amount of pain than the patients in the traditional opioid pathway,” says Dr. Hamid.
If successful, the study could lead to new protocol across the country, perhaps giving doctors a safer option.
“You don’t grow up saying ‘I want to be an addict, that’s my goal in life’,” says Philbeck. “That wasn't his goal in life, his goal in life was to go to college and play baseball, and as every little boy dreams to be a famous baseball player.”
The study will involve 700 patients and it’s expected to take at least two years to complete.