If you have been told you need to have surgery, you trust that you will be anesthetized during the procedure. Afterward, you know that you can expect to experience some discomfort. Before you even leave the operating room, you will likely be given a pain medication to keep you comfortable for several hours after your anesthesia wears off.
During your stay in the hospital immediately following the procedure, most patients expect to be given enough medication to be kept relatively comfortable during the first few days of healing. While you may be apprehensive about “going under the knife,” do you also worry about the possibility of becoming addicted to opioid pain medications afterward?
According to the results of a study conducted by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, patients who undergo a number of common surgical procedures are at higher risk for becoming chronic opioid painkiller users.
Stanford University Study Looked at Common Surgeries
The researchers studied insurance claims made by 641,941 surgical patients and 18,011,137 non-surgical patients. None of the patients in the study had filled a prescription for opioids within the previous 12 months.
The surgical patients underwent the following procedures:
- Total Knee Replacement
- Total Hip Replacement
- Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy (minimally invasive gall bladder removal)
- Open Cholecystectomy (traditional gall bladder surgery–large incision)
- Laparoscopic Appendectomy (minimally invasive appendectomy removal)
- Open Appendectomy (traditional appendectomy – larger incision required)
- Cesarean Delivery
- Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery (FESS)
- Cataract Surgery
- Transurethral Prostate Resection [TURP] (treatment for urinary problems due to enlarged prostate)
- Simple Mastectomy
These procedures were chosen because, with the exception of the total knee and hip replacement surgeries, they are not performed to relieve pain or thought to put patients at risk for long-term pain. All participants in the study were adults between the ages of 18-64 and participated for two years before surgery and one year after their procedure.
Study Results Show Increased Risk of Opioid Use After Surgery
The study results indicate that the patients who underwent the 11 types of surgery were at a slightly increased risk of becoming chronic opioid users. Chronic opioid use is defined as patients who filled 10 or more prescriptions for this class of drug or who received more than a 120-day supply in the first year following their surgical procedure, excluding the first three months after the date of their procedure.
These results do not suggest that patients should refuse to undergo necessary medical procedures due to concern they might become addicted to opioids. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks and to have a plan for addressing them.
Higher Risk Among Women Who Have Undergone Cesarean Sections
Women who have given birth via Cesarean section have higher instances of long-term opioid use, according to the study. Their risk was 28 percent higher than the control group.
Other risk factors that contribute to increased risk of long-term opioid use are being male, taking an antidepressant or abusing drugs. Seniors are also at risk for long-term opioid abuse.
Talk to Your Doctor About Pain Management After Surgery
If you or a loved one will be undergoing surgery, talk about plans for managing pain after the procedure. Ask questions about what medication is normally prescribed and for how long. If there are concerns about needing more pain relief than normal, ask before the surgery.
Keep in mind that having extra pills in your home “just in case” you may need them can be dangerous, too. They can fall into the hands of someone for whom they were not prescribed. There are other options for treating pain other than opioid medications, and your doctor should be able to discuss a plan for including them in your post-surgical pain management.
If you have concerns about opioid pain medication, either for yourself or a loved one, English Mountain Recovery can help. Our residential treatment program allows clients to focus their complete attention on getting well.
By Jodee Redmond