Certain factors may help doctors identify which patients are more likely to become dependent on opioids following surgery, according to new research published in JAMA Surgery.
The study, conducted by researchers with the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, involved data from more than 36,000 patients who had never taken opioids. The average age of patients was 45. Two thirds were women, three quarters were white, and all underwent surgery between 2013 and 2014.
About 80 percent of patients underwent minor surgery such as varicose vein removal. The other 20 percent underwent a major surgical operation such as a hysterectomy or colectomy. All patients received a prescription for opioids for pain relief following surgery. Researchers then looked at persistent opioid use.
Researchers found that smokers and patients with a history of alcohol or drug use were 30 percent more likely to persistently use opioids following surgery. Those previously diagnosed with depression or anxiety and those with a history of chronic pain were also at increased risk of persistent opioid use. The risk rose to 56 percent among patients with a history of arthritis. But the risk was not much different between patients who had undergone minor surgery compared to those who had major surgery.
“New persistent opioid use after surgery is common and is not significantly different between minor and major surgical procedures but rather associated with behavioral and pain disorders,” the authors write. “This suggests its use is not due to surgical pain but addressable patient-level predictors.”
Prescription drug abuse is growing in epidemic proportions in the United States. Opioids are the most abused prescription drugs in the country. Opioids include morphine and oxycodone, and give patients a feeling of euphoria that contributes to the abuse and dependence of the drugs.