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New Research Reveals Potency and Quantity of Opioids Prescribed for Postsurgical Pain Poses Danger to Patients, their Families and Friends
Patients prescribed nearly 100 to 200 opioid pills to help manage pain from four common procedures
Persistent opioid use spikes among millennial women; Nearly one-in-five millennials report becoming addicted to or dependent on opioids following surgery
These findings come from a new report, Exposing a Silent Gateway to Persistent Opioid Use – A Choices Matter Status Report, based on an analysis of 2017 adjudicated medical and pharmacy claims data conducted by
The report shows that across the seven orthopedic and soft tissue surgical procedures examined, patients were prescribed an average of 82 opioid pills each to help manage postsurgical pain. Close to nine percent of surgical patients became newly persistent users in 2017, continuing to take these opioids at least three to six months after their procedure. Among patients having knee replacement surgery or a colectomy, newly persistent opioid users climbed as high as 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Further, women were 40 percent more likely to become persistent opioid users than men; and among persistent users, females were prescribed 15 percent more opioids than their male counterparts.
Especially Concerning Trends Were Seen Among Millennials
While there was some decline overall in persistent opioid use from 2016 to 2017, the number of millennial women (ages 18-34) who became persistent users rose 17 percent over that year. Additionally, an alarming 18 percent of millennials surveyed reported they became addicted to or dependent on opioids following surgery. According to the CDC, overdose deaths among millennials increased almost 50 percent between 2014 and 2016.
“There is always a risk when exposing patients to opioids, so it’s incumbent on surgeons to be extremely cautious and minimize the use of these medications whenever possible,” said
Overprescribing of opioids not only puts patients at risk of persistent use, addiction or dependence, but also results in unused pills available for potential misuse or abuse by others. According to the report:
- Nearly one-in-five surgical patients who refilled an opioid prescription admitted they did so even though they no longer needed the drug to manage their pain.
- The vast majority of survey respondents (nearly 90 percent) with leftover pills reported they did not dispose of them properly, with many keeping them in their homes and, in some cases, sharing them with family and friends.
- Almost half of 40 to 54 year-old patients with leftover opioids kept the pills in their home – an age range typical of parents of teenage children who are at high risk for diversion and misuse.
“Opioids are ravaging communities across the country, with more Americans now dying of overdoses than car crashes – and most of those individuals began by using prescription opioids,” said
The report also examined the annual total number of opioids prescribed nationwide for all clinical reasons, not just surgery, and found that enough opioids were dispensed in 2017 for every American to have 32 pills each, an 11 percent decline from 2016. While fewer pills were dispensed, patients in
To better understand the behaviors and attitudes related to postsurgical opioid use,
This report is part of an ongoing research initiative by
About Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is committed to helping families struggling with their son’s or daughter’s substance use. We empower families with information, support and guidance to get the help their loved one needs and deserves. On our website, drugfree.org, by phone at 855-DRUGFREE, through text messaging and Facebook Messenger, the Partnership’s Parent Helpline provides families with support and guidance to help them address substance use among adolescents and young adults. Finally, we build healthy communities, advocating for greater understanding and more effective programs to treat the disease of addiction. As a national nonprofit, we depend on donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and the public sector, and are thankful to SAG-AFTRA and the advertising and media industries for their ongoing generosity. We are proud to receive a Four-Star rating from Charity Navigator, America's largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities, as well as a National Accredited Charity Seal from The Better Business Bureau’s
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