Prescription painkillers after severe injury not responsible for opioid abuse, says study

Prescription painkillers after severe injury not responsible for opioid abuse, says study

The havoc created by opioid epidemic in the United States is attributed mostly to the addictive nature of the drugs. Numerous studies have explained the psychological impact of irresponsible use of pain relievers. Looking at the situation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formulated guidelines in 2016 that recommended physicians about the duration of the prescription they must advise to their patients.

The most powerful painkillers prescribed are OxyContin, Vicodin, hydrocodone-acetaminophen,  among many others. While these help in alleviating pain, their impact on the brain’s reward system leaves many patients helplessly dependent on them. This has, however, been contradicted by a group of surgeons from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. At the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons in Washington D.C. in October 2016, the surgeons suggested that only about 1 percent of the patients prescribed opioids in response to severe trauma had continued to take them a year later and the rest discontinued them after three months.

Co-researcher of the study Dr. Andrew Schoenfeld, an orthopedic surgeon, said, “Our findings in patients who sustain traumatic injury contradict the popular narrative about the role that appropriate use of opioids may play in the rate of opioid abuse in this country.”

The observations were based on the examination of details of trauma cases of the Department of Defense health system medical records during 2007-13. The focus was laid on 15,369 patients, aged between 18 years and 64 years, afflicted with grievous injuries. The surgeons ensured that the patients filled the criteria of scoring a nine or more on a scale of one to 15 and had required some kind of pain management for a year.

Aged and financially weak deemed most vulnerable

None of the patients had their prescriptions filled for painkillers in the six months before the injury. A detailed examination of the records of these patients revealed that more than a half of them had their opiate prescriptions filled after they had left the hospital, though only 8.9 percent continued to get them refilled after three months. It was observed that the number of these patients had fallen to 3.9 percent after six months which later reduced to 1.1 percent at the end of one year. The researchers also found that aged patients and those belonging to the low-income group were more likely to continue using opioids similar to those who had remained hospitalized for a time period surpassing two weeks.

Getting timely treatment for opioid abuse  

Surprised at the number of patients resorting to prolonged use of opioids, Schoenfeld added, “It appears that traumatic injury is not a main driver for continued opioid use in patients who were not taking opioids prior to their injuries.” The results did not indicate that severely hurt patients were less likely to become dependent on opioids, though authors of the study maintained the need for old and financially weak patients to seek help from social managers or caretakers, during the recovery process, to avoid being addicted to opioids.

Analgesics are recommended to patients suffering from excruciating pain and having undergone surgery or due to some injury. The fact that physicians continue to prescribe opioids to their patients complaining of pain has made it difficult for health care providers and those at the federal level to combat the scourge of opioid abuse.

If you or your loved one is looking to get rid of addiction to any kind of drugs, including opioids, contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California for further information on prescription drug rehab in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-738-2770 or chat online for expert advice on prescription drug addiction treatment in California.