Many people continue to use opioid pain relievers months after surgery
Some diseases are treated with opioids. The strong pain reliever is also used after surgery to guarantee the patient freedom from pain. However, researchers have now found that a significant number of patients continue to take opioid analgesics many months after the operation. This creates increasing rates of overdoses of the addictive drug.
After so-called joint replacement surgery, patients are often prescribed pain medication with opioids. Sometimes even for periods of several months. Scientists from the University of Michigan have now found in an investigation that these prescriptions increase the rates of overdoses in the United States. The experts published the results of their study in the "Pain" journal.
There is an increasing overdose of pain relievers with opioids
The increased use of opioids leads to more and more overdoses of the drug. For example, if patients are prescribed powerful pain relievers containing opioids for months after arthroplasty, the risk of overdose increases massively, explain the doctors. Such joint replacement surgery is becoming increasingly common in the United States, which increases the cases of opioid overdose. Prescription analgesics with opioids include medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, the experts add.
Current example of an overdose of opioids: the late singer Prince
A well-known current example of an overdose of medication with opioids is certainly the singer Prince. This died in April after taking fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug with opioids, the experts explain. The artist took the medication because he allegedly had severe hip pain. This should be the result of an injury he suffered years ago when performing intensive acrobatics during a stage show, the doctors add.
Study examined 574 patients with knee or hip surgery
The researchers examined 574 patients for their new study. All of them had previously had knee or hip surgery. About 30 percent of patients took potentially addictive opioid pain relievers before their surgery. Of these, 53 percent of knee patients and 35 percent of patients with hip problems used the addictive medication for another six months after the operation, the scientists say. Of the patients who did not take opioids before the operation, eight percent of the knee patients and four percent of the so-called hip patients also used painkillers, even six months after the operation, the researchers explain.
Which patients are most at risk of taking long-term opioids?
The strongest predictor of long-term opioid use among study participants was taking high doses of the drug before joint replacement, the study's authors say. The results suggest that some patients continue to use the opioids despite an improvement in their hip or knee pain. This also applies to some patients who had not used opioids before the joint replacement surgery. All of these individuals are at risk of becoming chronic users of the medication as a result of abuse, experts from the University of Michigan warn. The use of narcotic pain relievers after a joint replacement operation is much more common than previously thought, explains the author Jenna Goesling from the University of Michigan. Physicians should better educate patients about the potential dangers of these drugs. In addition, doctors should refrain from prescribing pain medication before and after surgery and always determine exactly whether the drug is really needed or whether there are other alternatives. (as)