MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- Dana Johnstone’s pain started a month ago when she woke up with a stiff neck and couldn’t turn her head.
She had back surgery a few years ago and while her neck problem came out of the blue, it might stem from that.
She also loves Zumba and kickboxing. She’s fought through pain before, but not like this.
“It hurts bad, really bad,” said Johnstone.
The diagnosis was a herniated disc, the treatment is surgery. It may sound surprising, but Johnstone will forgo taking any of the stronger painkillers during her recovery
Minutes before going under the knife, she took Ultram, Lyrica, Flomax, Tylenol and Celebrex.
Most are prescription medications. Tylenol though you can get over the counter. The important part is none of these are opioids.
“The pain medication makes you feel weird, so I don’t really want to take them if I don’t have to,” said Johnstone.
Johnstone’s doctor Hooman Melamed made the choice to cut back on prescribing narcotics last year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.”
In his own life Dr. Melamed saw that a non-opioid drug cocktail plus a big change in diet made a huge difference in his own pain level after knee surgery.
“After only five days of narcotics, one out of five people can become basically opiate dependent which is very, very extremely scary,” said Dr. Melamed.
Leading up to her surgery, Dr. Melamed helped Johnstone cut out certain foods like dairy, grains, and processed sugar.
His approach stands out, but he stands behind it.
“What is even worse is how easy people are getting narcotics. It’s being given out like candy. You go to the emergency room, you have a sprained ankle, 'Oh here’s a prescription of 30 Vicodin.' I mean 30 Vicodin for an ankle sprain are you kidding me?” said Dr. Melamed.
Johnstone’s surgery lasted less than two hours. She hopes in three weeks she’ll be back at work.