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Opioids overprescribed after minor surgeries

Article-Opioids overprescribed after minor surgeries

Toronto — A new study suggests that prescribing opioid medications such as codeine and oxycodone after minor surgery could be a factor in the increasing incidents of addiction and addiction-related overdose deaths.

In a study headed by Asim Alam, M.D., of the University of Toronto, researchers looked at records of 391,139 patients ages 66 and older who’d had relatively minor surgery from April 1, 1997, through Dec. 31, 2008. Among this group, about 7 percent were prescribed an opioid within seven days of the surgery and 7.7 percent were prescribed opioids one year after the surgery. Ten percent of that group of patients were considered long-term opioid users.

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the study authors noted that while some individuals in the study probably had developed pain conditions legitimately requiring use of opioid medications, it’s also possible that use of the medications created dependence in other patients. Compared with people who were not prescribed a post-surgery opioid drug, those who received a prescription were 44 times more likely to be classified later as long-term opioid users.

The authors wrote that after minor surgery, patients are often given a prescription for codeine or oxycodone “on the expectation of postoperative pain” but that the medications may be misused. Keeping the unused bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet “presents a readily available source of opioid diversion among certain surgical patients,” the authors added.

“Prescription of analgesics immediately after ambulatory surgery occurs frequently in older adults and is associated with long-term use,” the authors concluded in the study abstract.
The study appears in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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