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Reduction in amount of opioids postsurgery ensures similar effectiveness, says study

Reduction in amount of opioids postsurgery ensures similar effectiveness, says study

Reduction in amount of opioids postsurgery ensures similar effectiveness, says study

December 29th, 2017 | ASAH Team

With the dramatic surge in the prescription rate of opioids for pain, opioid addiction has emerged as one of the major health issues affecting the population of the United States. According to statistics shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescribers wrote around 66.5 opioids and 25.2 sedatives for every 100 Americans. In 2015, approximately 33,091 people died due to drug overdoses involving opioids in the U.S.

Though a number of factors like genetics, environment, psychology, etc. are responsible for triggering this condition, the easy availability of these drugs is another common factor that leads to opioid abuse. Despite the relentless rise in opioid abuse, a recent study has found that this problem can be easily controlled.

According to the new study, opioid epidemic can be controlled by curbing the number of prescription painkillers prescribed to each patient to manage his or her postsurgery pain. Due to the overprescription of opioids after surgery, a large number of medication remain unused and are available in the community for diversion. These leftover opioid medications become the driving force behind the current opioid epidemic. The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Michigan and published in the journal JAMA Surgery, also highlights the necessity to identify measures to mitigate this risk.

Key findings of the study

The study was based on the data collected from 170 patients who were treated at Michigan Medicine for gallbladder removal or laparoscopic cholecystectomy from Jan 2015 to June 2016. On an average, it was found that a patient received a prescription of 250 milligrams of opioid medications after surgery, consuming somewhere about 50 pills. However, on interviewing 100 out of these patients  it was found that the actual amount taken after a surgery was different. It averaged to about 30 milligrams, or about six pills.

On finding this, the current prescribing guideline was lowered. Along with this, the new patients were also educated about pain control. A few other findings are listed as below:

  • The average prescription for the first 200 new patients dropped by 66 percent. It came down to 75 milligrams of opioids, or 15 pills.
  • Patients getting a prescription for non-opioid painkillers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, more than doubled.
  • Requests for opioid refills did not increase.

During the study, researchers also interviewed 86 patients receiving smaller prescriptions. Unlike earlier patients, it was found that these patients were able to control their pain—even after taking a lesser amount of medicines (about 20 mg).

According to Ryan Howard, M.D., a resident in the U-M Department of Surgery, who began the study while attending the U-M Medical School and the first author of the study, people have continued overprescribing due to the absence of information related to the right amount.

In the light of the above results, researchers developed a set of postoperative prescribing guidelines. The guide helps people understand the right way to take pain medicines and the importance of taking them as long as they have pain. The recommendations are now available to the public via the Michigan Opioid Prescribing and Engagement Network (Michigan OPEN) initiative that Englesbe co-leads.

Recovery road map

The team of the above-mentioned study is hopeful that its efforts won’t go in vain and the outcomes would be used in other hospitals as well to reduce the risk of opioid addiction and abuse.

One of the most important factors that can help in reducing the risk of opioid abuse in the country is the safe disposal of extra and unused prescription pills. The free or easy availability of opioid medications can double the risk of an individual abusing these medicines and eventually developing an addiction.

If you or someone you know is addicted to opioids and looking for help, contact the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline for assistance. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-857-5777 or chat online with our experts to know about the best substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona.

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