Opioid-prescribing recommendations for common obstetrics procedures including vaginal delivery are needed to prevent the potential for abuse, according to a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The retrospective cohort study, conducted by researchers with the University of Pittsburgh, involved nearly 165,000 Medicaid-enrolled women who give birth to a live baby vaginally from 2008 to 2013. Researchers examined the prevalence of opioid prescription filling and refilling after delivery.
They found that 12 percent of women who had left the hospital after giving birth filled a prescription for an opioid five days or less after delivery. Among these women, 14 percent filled a second opioid prescription six to 60 days after delivery. Of the women who filled a prescription within five days of delivery, 28.2 percent had one or more conditions that would warrant use of painkillers.
Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. Continued use and abuse can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. They come in tablets, capsules or liquid and are known by the brand or generic names OxyContin, Demerol, Percocet, Vicodin, morphine, and codeine.
Prescription drug abuse has become a serious problem in the United States, and opioids are just as addictive and potent as heroin or cocaine sold on the street, leading the federal government to take up the fight against the country’s growing opioid epidemic.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for doctors prescribing opioids to limit the circumstances, quantity and duration of the drugs to patients. Congress also passed a new bill to increase resource allocation to emergency departments and treatment providers to assist with prevention and intervention methods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also took aim by requiring manufacturers of opioids to add black box warnings on their drugs’ packaging warning of addiction and dependence risk as well as serious adverse events and overdose. Access to the opioid antidote naloxone has also been made easier.
Great efforts have been made, but more needs to be done, including establishing guidelines for opioid prescribing to women who have recently undergone vaginal delivery, researchers recommend.