For the last 15 years, opioid abuse has been a matter of serious concern in the United States. According to the latest data, approximately 11.8 million people misused opioids in 2015, including 11.5 million abused pain reliever and 948,000 heroin. With the increased practice of prescribing opioids even for common conditions like back pain, the overall situation has become dire. Consequently, there has been a massive increase in the rate of opioid addiction and the number of overdose deaths, which has emerged as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S.
One of the primary reasons behind the increased prevalence of opioid abuse is the lack of knowledge, especially among youngsters. Even though the federal government has been taking a number of steps to curb this issue, it has not attained much so far. Therefore, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan has taken a step forward by evaluating the issue of opioid abuse from a different perspective.
The researchers tried to evaluate if the persistent use of opioids among adolescents and young adults after surgery leads to addiction. Published in the journal Pediatrics in January 2018, the study highlights the need of prescribing opioids safely and monitoring the habits of users in a postoperative setting to prevent long-term addiction, misuse and adverse effects.
Key findings of the study
As the amount of opioids prescribed is far more among surgical patients compared to others, the study assessed the level of addiction among adolescents and young adults who continued to use opioids for a longer duration after their surgery. For the study, persistent opioid use was defined as the act of refilling one or more opioid prescription drugs between 90 and 180 days after surgery.
To understand the impact of opioids on the patients undergoing surgical care, a sample of 88,637 surgical patients aged between 13 and 21 years was chosen for the study. The sample included surgical patients who had not taken opioids before their surgery and did not undergo any further surgery in the next six months of the original procedure. At the same time, a control sample of 3 million individuals aged 13 to 21 years who had not undergone any surgery was chosen for comparison with the above group.
Some of the key findings of the comparison between the samples are as follows:
- Compared to the control group wherein persistent opioid use was found in just 0.1 percent of patients, it was witnessed in approximately 4.8 percent surgical patients.
- The amount of prescription refills was found to be high. For instance, people were given refills of 40 tablets of hydrocodone (5-milligram tablets) or 26 tablets of oxycodone (5-milligram tablets) at six months after surgery.
- The level of opioid dependence varied as per the surgery. As such, the lowest usage rates of 2.7 percent were found among those who had undergone a procedure known as orchiopexy to move an undescended testicle. On the contrary, the highest usage rates of 15.2 percent was found in people who had undergone a procedure known as colectomy to remove a part of the bowel.
Explore alternative options for pain management
The researchers highlighted the need to carry out further research to understand the factors that caused such a major difference in the level of opioid dependence between different surgical procedures. Besides the kind of surgery involved, some of the common factors that increase the risk of continued opioid use include age (older children are more at risk) and gender (females are more at risk).
Some of the other findings of the above-mentioned study suggest that the risk of chronic opioid addiction is higher young age due to increased vulnerability compared to adults. Considering the adverse consequences of opioids, one should prescribe such medications only when no alternative methods to treat pain are available. These should never be considered as the only way to recover from pain. Being dependent on opioids or using them over a long period of time can definitely increase the risk of developing an addiction.
If you know someone who is addicted to opioids or any other prescription drugs, contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California for finding the best prescription drug rehab centers in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-738-2770 or chat online with one of our representatives to access relevant information on the leading prescription drug addiction treatment in California.