Too many pain pills after surgery: When good intentions go awry


As a doctor with an curiosity in decreasing opioid-related issues, I often hear tales from colleagues and buddies about their family members who both wrestle with opioid habit or have even died from opioid-related overdose. My follow-up query to them is often: “How did it start?” Nearly each time the reply is identical: the person skilled acute ache both from a trauma or surgical procedure, was began on opioids by a health care provider, after which couldn’t give up.

My son’s baseball coach, who will not be within the medical discipline, described it completely. He went in for a minor again surgical procedure and was discharged with 60 tablets of oxycodone (the opioid drugs in Percocet and Oxycontin). For the primary couple of days, he had vital ache and used the ache drugs. After the ache started to subside and acetaminophen and ibuprofen had been adequate, he stopped utilizing the oxycodone. However after discontinuing the treatment, he started feeling horrible, experiencing physique aches, restlessness, and insomnia. He took one other oxycodone and felt higher. Thankfully, he had the perception to acknowledge what was occurring: he was withdrawing from the opioid, even after taking it for only some days. Had he continued treating his withdrawal with oxycodone, he might have grow to be hooked. “I dodged a bullet,” he instructed me.

The issue of antagonistic results and unused opioids

This story, repeated repeatedly, is fascinating in mild of a current research revealed in JAMA Surgical procedure. The paper was a meta-analysis that mixed the outcomes of six earlier research investigating use of opioids by sufferers after seven completely different surgical procedures. Within the period of the opioid epidemic, the place we all know that the overwhelming majority of drugs taken for non-medical causes (e.g., abuse) are obtained from buddies or relations, the outcomes are staggering: 42% to 71% of the prescribed opioids went unused. Moreover, 16% to 29% of sufferers skilled antagonistic results immediately attributed to the opioids.

A number of authorities and public well being companies suggest discarding unused opioids. It’s not secure to flush them down the bathroom as they’ll contaminate our water provide, however most police stations and now business pharmacies have bins the place unused drugs may be safely disposed. Regardless of this, the research found that solely 4% to 30% deliberate to eliminate the drugs and solely 4% to 9% deliberate to make use of a secure disposal technique.

Why are opioids prescribed usually and in bigger quantities?

A key query is why overprescribing after surgical procedure is happening. I consider there are two possible explanations. The primary is that surgeons, appropriately, don’t want their sufferers to undergo from ache after an operation. The second is that, in lots of states, it’s unattainable to cellphone in a prescription for a managed substance (e.g. an opioid ache treatment). Due to this fact, a affected person truly has to return again to clinic to select up a prescription, which causes inconvenience to each the affected person and the prescriber. Offering a prescription for 60 or 90 drugs is smart contemplating this barrier. A number of states are implementing methods to supply digital prescriptions that might make the physician’s workplace go to pointless if a refill is required, however it should take time earlier than most medical doctors can do that.

Nonetheless, because the research in JAMA reveals, these giant quantities could also be way more drugs than is required. For instance, contemplate one other intriguing research of sufferers being handled for an acute extremity fracture. The researchers offered sufferers with particular drugs that contained each oxycodone and a small radio transmitter that grew to become activated within the abdomen. The researchers had been in a position to detect precisely when the opioid was taken. Sufferers had been instructed to make use of as much as one week of oxycodone. At observe up, the common variety of drugs used was eight. A lot of the extreme ache was gone in simply three days. There was no extra want for opioids than a couple of drugs, definitely lower than 15.

Right here’s what you are able to do to guard your self and your neighborhood

How can the general public defend itself? Physicians have an obligation to teach in regards to the dangers and advantages of all therapies rendered, together with when prescribing opioids. That sadly doesn’t all the time happen. So right here’s my recommendation: if you’re prescribed an opioid for acute ache, together with after surgical procedure, take all the non-opioid ache drugs permitted by your physician as instructed (e.g. acetaminophen and ibuprofen, if not contraindicated). Add the opioid if, and provided that, the ache will not be bearable with the opposite drugs. And as soon as the ache is tolerable, cease the opioid and safely eliminate it by bringing it again to your pharmacy, if they’ve a disposal bin, or any DEA-recommended assortment website. Lastly, contemplate having a dialogue together with your physician in regards to the variety of drugs you might be more likely to want within the first place earlier than the prescription is written. Being knowledgeable about safely utilizing opioids may forestall dependence, and, in the end, save your life.

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