Navigation Link
Basic Information
What is Addiction?What Causes Addiction?How Do You Get Addicted?Signs and Symptoms of AddictionTreatment for AddictionReferencesResourcesFrequentlly Asked Questions about Addiction
TestsLatest News
U.S. Courts, Jails Could Be Key Players in Curbing Opioid AbuseSteep Rise in Deaths for People Hospitalized After Opioid ODRisk of Persistent Opioid Use a Concern for Youth After SurgeryFDA Approves Once-Monthly Injection for Opioid AddictionImmediate Access to Opioid Agonists Found Cost-EffectiveOpioid Crisis Hitting Boomers, Millennials HardestTop Anti-Opioid Meds Are Equally Safe, EffectiveAbusing Pot, Booze Lowers Teens' Chances for Success in LifeLethal Dangers Lurk Even After Opioid OD RescueUsing Cocaine? Fingerprints Might TellFentanyl Driving Surge in Fatal U.S. Opioid OverdosesTrump Declares Opioid Epidemic a Public Health EmergencyOpioid Addiction a Danger After Weight-Loss SurgeryU.S. Opioid Painkiller Abuse May Be Leveling OffDrug OD Rate Now Higher in Rural U.S. Than Cities: CDCExtended-Release Naltrexone Promising for Opioid DependenceHealth Tip: Recovering From Substance AbuseMedicare Could Do More to Stem Opioid EpidemicNew Online Tool Aids Search for Alcohol TreatmentHeroin Taking Bigger Share of U.S. Opioid ODsRapid Test for Meth Abuse May Be NearPost-Op Opioids: How Much Is Enough?CDC Launches Opioid Campaign in Hard-Hit StatesERs Prescribing Opioids at Lower Doses, Shorter DurationsAddictive Opioids Common for People on DialysisBooze Often Glorified On YouTube VideosOpioid ODs Have Cut Into U.S. Life Expectancy: CDCAAP: Opioid Dependence/Abuse Public Health Issue for ChildrenSurgery Can Be Trigger for Teen Opioid AbuseFDA Permits Marketing of App to Help Treat Substance AbuseApp to Help Treat Substance Abuse ApprovedFentanyl Drives Rise in Opioid-Linked Deaths in U.S.Opioid Overdoses and Deaths Flooding U.S. HospitalsIncrease in Alcohol Use, High-Risk Drinking in U.S. AdultsAlcohol Use, Abuse on the Rise in U.S.U.S. Opioid Crisis Continues to Worsen'12-Step' Strategy Boosts Success of Teen Drug Abuse ProgramAddiction Drug Underused by Primary Care Docs in U.S.7-Fold Spike Seen in Opioid-Linked Fatal Car CrashesNew Alcohol Screening, Brief Intervention Manual DevelopedOpioid Abuse Down in Younger Americans, But Up Among Older AdultsTreating ADHD May Help Curb Later Drinking, Drug ProblemsNearly 1 in 5 U.S. Adults Has Mental Illness or Drug ProblemCan Fetal Alcohol Damage Be Undone?Hospitalists Have Role to Play in Mitigating Opioid Use DisorderOpioids Second Only to Marijuana in Illicit Drug Abuse RatesEnding U.S. Opioid Abuse Epidemic Will Take Years: ReportMore Research Shows Big Surge in U.S. Opioid Use, AddictionsOpioid Addicts Find It Hard to Avoid FentanylAddicts Try to Avoid Deadly Fentanyl, But Many Tragically Fail
LinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Related Topics

Anxiety Disorders
Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Many Opioid Addictions Surface After Surgery, Study Finds

HealthDay News
by By Alan MozesHealthDay Reporter
Updated: Apr 12th 2017

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, April 12, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Some surgery patients prescribed opioids for post-operative pain relief may face a high risk for developing a long-term opioid addiction, new research warns.

The analysis tracked a half-year of opioid use among more than 36,000 surgery patients. None had taken opioids before their surgical procedure.

"We found that 5 to 6 percent of patients not using opioids prior to surgery continued to fill prescriptions for opioids long after what would be considered normal surgical recovery," said study author Dr. Chad Brummett. He is director of the division of pain research at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"Moreover, the rates of new chronic use did not differ between patients having major and minor surgeries, suggesting that patients continue to use these pain medications for something other than simply pain from surgery," he added.

The risk was highest among smokers; patients who had struggled with alcohol and/or drugs in the past; those previously diagnosed with depression or anxiety; and those with a history of chronic pain, the findings showed.

Patients who smoked and those who had a history of alcohol and/or drug abuse faced about a 30 percent higher risk. And that increased risk rose to roughly 50 percent among patients with a history of arthritis, the researcher 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," Brummett said.

More than 50 million surgeries are performed in the United States annually, the study authors noted.

In many cases, the pain control drug of choice is an opioid medication such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. Brummett said that it's not uncommon to offer patients about a week's worth of these meds for post-op pain.

But the United States is in the grip of an opioid painkiller epidemic, with more than 10 million people using prescription opioids for non-medical reasons in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile, there has been a quadrupling of prescriptions for opioids since 1999, even though there has been no commensurate rise in reported pain levels among U.S. patients, the agency added.

In the new study, the patients were about 45 years old, on average. About two-thirds were women, three-quarters were white, and all underwent surgery between 2013 and 2014.

Roughly 80 percent underwent minor surgery, such as varicose vein removal or a range of minimally invasive operations. The other 20 percent underwent a major operation, such as a hysterectomy or colectomy.

Just before surgery, patients were given prescriptions for a total of between 30 to 45 opioid tablets.

But following surgery, about 6 percent of both major and minor surgical patients went on to fill an additional three prescriptions, adding up to an average total of roughly 125 pills over a three- to six-month post-op period, according to the report.

In contrast, among a group of men and women who didn't have surgery and hadn't taken an opioid medication in the prior year, less than half of 1 percent engaged in a similar pattern of long-term opioid abuse.

The findings were published online April 12 in JAMA Surgery.

Brummett acknowledged that pain control is important. And "opioids are still very good medications for treating acute pain after surgery or injury," he added.

"However, in the days or weeks after surgery, patients should wean off of opioids even if they continue to have some pain," he said. "If their pain becomes chronic, they should seek additional care and consider other medications and alternatives to opioids."

One recent study showed that opioid dependence can take hold in as little as five days.

"Clinicians should be cautious about prescribing and consider the potential risks of opioids after surgery," Brummett said. One idea: screening patients, by means of questionnaires, for histories of "pain, mood and function."

Anita Gupta, an international affairs fellow with the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, said the problem calls for much more patient-doctor face time.

"We should have been screening years ago. All patients are not the same," Gupta said.

"Different patients require different treatments," she explained. "Cookie-cutter algorithms and check-boxes are not proper ways to treat all patients who have a broad range of surgeries."

Gupta agreed that "until we find alternatives, opioids will remain a cornerstone of pain treatment. But surgical patients are highly complex. And effective and safe pain management requires making time for patient-centric care, so when we prescribe opioids we do it safely and responsibly."

More information

Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for more on opioid abuse.