It is unfortunate that drugs used to relieve pain can pose danger for many users, who unknowingly develop a dependence on these painkillers. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 3.8 million people aged 12 or older (1.4 percent of the population in the respective age group) were current misusers of pain relievers in 2015. In addition, an estimated 1.1 percent or 276,000 adolescents (aged 12 to 17) reported to have misused pain relievers in the previous month.
A recent research published in the journal JAMA Surgery in June 2017 discovered an association between prescription painkiller use and risk of dependence in patients as they recover from surgical procedures. The study was carried out on more than 36,000 adults, who were covered by a nationwide insurance company and underwent surgeries during 2013–2014. The study revealed that 6 percent adults, who had not filled a painkiller prescription in the year before, ended up filling opioid scripts for three to six months after they underwent surgeries. Surgeries included minor ones like varicose vein removal, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, laparoscopic appendectomy, hemorrhoidectomy, thyroidectomy, and major ones like reflux surgery, bariatric surgery, and hysterectomy among others.
Concerns over continuous use of opioids
The researchers raised concerns over people using opioids for months or years at a time, and advised to control this practice in the United States. It was found that over two million people in the U.S. every year might use opioids persistently after surgeries. The researchers at the University of Michigan and Veterans Affairs recommended the use of prescription medicine to manage post-surgery pain for not more than three months.
Interestingly, patients with surgeries who filled opioid prescriptions exhibited a little different behavior from the majority of patients who did not. The study revealed that these patients were more vulnerable to develop chronic pain conditions including back pain or arthritis. Moreover, these patients were more likely use tobacco, develop substance use disorders, and anxiety and mood disorders.
Another study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, reported a similar association when people developed dependency followed by a new opioid prescription. The research found that out of total opioid-naïve patients who got six or more opioid fills within a year, 5 percent became long-term users.
While multiple factors may be responsible for developing dependence in opioid users, post-surgery interventions can be one way to control the growing prevalence. Doctors can help by limiting long-term painkiller prescriptions for all patients with surgeries. Patients need to be educated about the possible risks of opioid use. They should be advised for sensible use by having a realistic idea of when exactly and in what quantity they should use painkillers. Furthermore, doctors and lawmakers should clearly tell patients when they should detach from opioids. If people continue to pop pills for a longer period, they will find it harder to quit.
Treatment for opioid dependence
Pharmacological and psychosocial interventions are the most preferred treatment approaches to treat people with opioid addiction. Medications are administered to remove the drugs from the body and help the patient manage withdrawal symptoms. Psychosocial interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other talking therapies are targeted at enhancing motivation for behavior change and treating concurrent mental illnesses, if any.
If you know someone who is addicted to an opioid and needs help, you can contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline. The experts can connect you to state-of-the-art prescription drug abuse treatment centers where holistic recovery programs are provided in a serene environment. You can call our 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557 or chat online with our counselor to get details about the best prescription drug abuse treatment clinic near you.