| addiction

Understanding the Likelihood of Continued Opioid Use Postsurgery

Study of 900,000 Prescribed Medications Linked to Patient Dependency

Although opioids play a key role in reducing pain when recovering from surgery, some patients transition to chronic users and become dependent on them. In order to find out what situations result in patients continuing to refill their opioid prescriptions after a surgery, Johns Hopkins researchers scoured a database of more than 900,000 people who had a surgery scheduled and were prescribed opioids for the first time.

Although some procedures and specialties are more inherently painful or leave a person with chronic pain, in their study, published online April 15 in The American Journal of Surgery, the researchers say physicians could be doing more to prevent patients from continuing to take opioids. 

“Based on our data, there are some easy changes that we can suggest to reduce the chance that patients will continue on opioids beyond the time needed for surgical healing, such as asking surgeons to prescribe opioids on the day of surgery rather than in advance,” says Mark Bicket, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We also recommend prescribing the smallest amount of opioids to treat a patient’s pain at a time, as this seems to curb long-term use.”

The researchers found that colorectal surgery patients were 35% more likely to continue to fill opioid prescriptions, cardiovascular surgery patients were 30% more likely and thoracic surgery patients were 26% more likely compared to urology patients, who had a lower likelihood of continuation.

Bicket’s team also found that patients who underwent surgeries outside of an operating room were 60% more likely to continue on opioids compared to those who had procedures in operating rooms. These trends continued at…

Read the full press release.

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