Gabby Reece raising awareness to help others fight opioid epidemic

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The Opioid Overdose Epidemic

As the opioid epidemic rages on in the U.S., a new study finds that the use of opioids to treat pain after surgery is leading to addiction at alarming rates. According to a national survey, one in ten patients admit they've become addicted to or dependent on opioids after being exposed to these powerful medications following an operation.

With 70 million surgical patients in the U.S. receiving an opioid annually, these findings suggest that as many as 7 million patients could develop an opioid addiction or dependency this year following a surgical procedure.

Given the clear need to cultivate better communication between patients and surgeons regarding all available postsurgical pain treatments, Pacira Pharmaceuticals and ASER are launching the Choices Matter program.

The initiative aims to educate both patients and physicians about their options when it comes to postsurgical pain control in order to promote proactive discussions before surgery about non-opioid alternatives. Former star volleyball player, Gabrielle Reece, whose recent knee replacement surgery has made this issue personal, is joining the campaign.

Reece had the chance to talk with AOL.com about her experiences and the campaign.

Q: What was your motivation for getting involved with this campaign?

A: I got involved with the campaign because I had knee replaced three months ago. Going in, I knew I wanted to try and avoid opiates. In the hospital, I got strong anti-inflammatory pain killers but then when I was home, I was on my own. I had to grind it out. The site www.planagainstpain.com is here and now there's all new and exciting products that aren't opiates, but can help with pain. They have these products available for right after surgery, which is typically the most painful time. I wanted to be involved, as an advocate for being in health.

Even for younger people, if they get addicted, the people who stick them in their cabinets at home, you have young people who get their hands on it. I have three daughters, I spent a lifetime trying to be as healthy as I can. When you start reading this, but realize other options, I was exciting to talking about it. Not that I can relate to it, but I know people don't have to go through it either. So when they say 10 percent are getting addicted, it's time to take a look.

Q: Have you found in your research and promotion of this campaign that opiates are more prevalent in certain sports?

A: One interesting thing about the opiates. It doesn't matter about sport, gender, religion, age, ethnicity -- if you have the switch you have the switch. In football, athletes are getting surgery more often, in sports where you're getting beat up -- you have to wonder, how do they function weekend to weekend? These guys are going to battle ...

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Q: What's the most valuable piece of advice you can give regarding health and wellness?

A: It's important to come to place where you realize, this is the No. 1 asset we own. We clean our car, we dry clean clothes. But we often forget to treat our bodies right. If you have bad habits, can you slowly take them away? Get the bad stuff out of your habits. The problem is when people try to get everything out at once. And the movement is important. People say 'I hate the gym'. So, make the place you exercise not the gym. It's not about a lot at once. Consistency is key. Recruit somebody. A friend, a mentor, a teammate or ally who can work out with you -- someone you're accountable to.

Q: Is it difficult balancing your career, being a mom and your health? How do you find time?

A: I always say this: we have a lot of hats that we wear and our tendency is to put others first. You have to be 'good selfish'. You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of others. You want to be a good example to your children about valuing health and being diligent about protecting that space.

For more information about postsurgical pain management options, including a customizable guide to facilitate a surgeon-patient discussion, visitwww.PlanAgainstPain.com.

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