Often patients are required to undergo surgical procedures for various reasons. However, severe pain can accompany this form of treatment. That is why, often, patients are asked to take prescription opioids to get relief from severe pain post-surgery. While the use of opioid painkillers may alleviate excruciating and continual pain, there is a possibility of the person becoming dependent on them if used for a prolonged period.
A new study suggests that some patients taking prescription opioids for post-operative pain relief are at a high risk of long-term opioid abuse. The study, published online in the journal JAMA Surgery on April 12, 2017, states that roughly 6 percent of the patients, who had never been on opioids prior to surgery but were recommended the same to ease their post-operative pain, had continued to use the drugs three to six months after the surgery.
For the study, researchers from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation looked at six months of continued opioid use among more than 36,000 surgical patients. They ensured that the respondents had not taken opioids prior to undergoing their surgical procedures. Doctors had recommended the respondents 30-45 opioid pills just before surgery.
It was observed that the pervasiveness of new and continual opioid use post-surgical procedures ranged from 5.9 percent to 6.5 percent with rates remaining constant between major and minor surgeries. In comparison, among the patients who had not undergone any surgery and had not received any opioid medicine in the previous year, less than half of a percent had shown similar patterns of protracted painkiller use.
Depression, anxiety heighten risk of opioid abuse
The researchers also observed that the potential risk of continued opioid use was maximum among smokers or those who had been hooked on alcohol or drugs in the past. In addition, depression and anxiety patients or those who had been suffering from prolonged pain were at potential risk of opioid misuse after surgery. Findings suggested that smokers and those with a history of alcohol or drug abuse were 30 percent more likely to abuse prescription medicines. Also, the risk went up to nearly 50 percent among those afflicted with arthritis.
Elaborating on the research findings, first study author Dr. Chad Brummett, who is also director of the Pain Research division in the University of Michigan’s Medical School Department of Anesthesiology, said, “The outcome is that pain medication prescriptions written for surgery are a major cause of new chronic opioid use for millions of Americans each year.”
Millions of surgical procedures take place in the U.S. every year. As per the American College of Surgeons, people in the U.S. face numerous invasive medications with increasing regularity as they grow older. This highlights the fact that millions of people in the country who had refrained from using opioids before surgery were now susceptible to using those drugs for months afterward every year.
A similar study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that opioid prescriptions for more than five days to a great extent raised the proclivity of incessant opioid use both one and three years after. According to the CDC, about 25 percent people who take prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggle with addiction.
The process of addiction becomes more painful considering the nagging fear of stigma that inhibits most people from seeking necessary treatment. Addiction is just a disorder as opposed to a moral failing that people misconstrue it to be.
If you or your loved one is battling an addiction, you may get in touch with Sovereign Health for our state-of-the-art addiction rehab centers spread across the U.S. You may also call our 24/7 helpline number at 855-683-9756 or chat with our online representatives for expert advice about the best substance abuse treatment centers in your vicinity.