Opioid abuse rises when prescriptions are renewed - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Opioid abuse rises when prescriptions are renewed

© Stockbyte / Thinkstock © Stockbyte / Thinkstock

(HealthDay News) -- How long you take opioid painkillers after surgery is a much stronger risk factor for addiction and overdose than the dosage of the opioids you take, researchers report.

The new study included more than 560,000 people who were prescribed opioids such as OxyContin or Percocet after surgery. None had a history of recent or chronic opioid use.

Each additional week of opioid use increased the risk for addiction or nonfatal overdose by 20 percent, the study found. Each additional refill increased the risk by 44 percent. The first refill more than doubled the risk, according to the study.

Dosage proved to be far less of a risk factor for addiction or overdose, defined by the researchers as misuse. In fact, the study authors said that among people who took opioids for two weeks or less, the risk for misuse was the same even for patients whose dosages were twice as high.

However, higher dosage did significantly increase the risk for misuse among people who took opioids for nine weeks or longer, the study found.

Overall, about 5,900 study participants developed an opioid addiction or had a nonfatal overdose. One-third of those misuse diagnoses occurred within a year of a patient's surgery, the findings showed.

The study was led by Harvard Medical School researchers, and is scheduled for publication Jan. 20 in the BMJ.

In the past 15 years, opioid overdoses in the United States have tripled and have become a leading cause of accidental death. Most opioid overdose deaths can be linked to an initial prescription opioid, the researchers said. Previous research suggests that 3 percent to 10 percent of people prescribed opioids for the first time go on to become chronic users.

"We are in the midst of an epidemic, and physician prescription practices play no small part in it," the study's senior investigator, Nathan Palmer, a biomedical informatics researcher, said in a Harvard news release.

"Understanding differences in risk for opioid misuse across various patient populations and clinical contexts is critical in informing the creation of narrowly tailored guidelines, clinical decision making and the national conversation on this topic," he added.

The findings show the importance of paying attention to how long people take opioids after surgery and the number of refills, the researchers said. And surgeons should not hesitate to refer patients to chronic pain specialists if their pain persists, the investigators concluded.

Dr. Gabriel Brat, a co-first author of the study, said, "As surgeons, we often struggle to balance the risk of abuse with our duty to manage pain, but our findings underscore how potent a single stroke of the pen can be in fueling this risk." Brat is an instructor in surgery and in biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School and a trauma surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Co-first author Denis Agniel, a RAND Corporation statistician and a part-time lecturer in biomedical informatics at Harvard, agreed.

"Our results indicate that each additional week of medication use -- every refill -- is an important marker of risk for abuse or dependence," Agniel said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on opioid overdose.

Copyright © 2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Latest Health NewsThe Latest from HealthDayMore>>

  • Need to lose weight? Team up with friends

    Need to lose weight? Team up with friends

    iStockphoto.com / Julia de LeseleuciStockphoto.com / Julia de Leseleuc

    Researchers have found that having friends who gain weight -- especially friends of the same gender -- raises your chance of becoming overweight by more than 50 percent. That's far more than if your spouse gains weight.

    Researchers have found that having friends who gain weight -- especially friends of the same gender -- raises your chance of becoming overweight by more than 50 percent. That's far more than if your spouse gains weight.

  • Cellphone use puts pedestrians off-balance

    Cellphone use puts pedestrians off-balance

    iStockphoto / Sean LockeiStockphoto / Sean Locke

    Cellphone users blundering into signs, lampposts, other people and traffic have become a recurring sidewalk sight in many places.

    Cellphone users blundering into signs, lampposts, other people and traffic have become a recurring sidewalk sight in many places.

  • FDA approves 1st generic EpiPen

    FDA approves 1st generic EpiPen

    ThinkstockThinkstock

    The first generic version of the EpiPen was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, paving the way for more affordable versions of the lifesaving allergy emergency medication.

    The first generic version of the EpiPen was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, paving the way for more affordable versions of the lifesaving allergy emergency medication.

*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by Frankly