Study Finds Patients Have Many Unused Painkillers After Surgery

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Study Finds Patients Have Many Unused Painkillers After Surgery

In the wake of the national opioid crisis, researchers questioned if certain patients actually require or use as many painkillers after surgery as physicians are prescribing. The research, conducted by Mass General and Newton-Wellesley Hospital revealed that patients who were prescribed opioids following groin hernia surgery used substantially less than was prescribed.

Moreover, the study reported that 86% of the subjects examined took less than half of the prescribed pills, and 60% of subjects examined used no painkillers at all.

At follow-up, only 13 of the 186 subjects in the study reported they needed nine or more painkillers, and 159 took fewer than five tables. More than 100 took no opioids at all. Doctors treating the patients had recommended that they use non-opioid medications, such as the anti-inflammatory ibuprofen, to control pain whenever possible.

The study also noted that subjects that reported taking no opioids were those least likely to report high levels of pain affecting their daily lives.

Senior author Dr. Peter Masiakos, Department of Pediatric Surgery at Mass General Hospital for Children, according to Newton Wicked Local:

“The results suggest that we should take a detailed look at our patient’s experiences and our prescribing habits to really determine how much opioid medication we should provide our patients.”

This finding is especially troubling in light of other recent research that found that almost 60% of U.S. adults who misuse opioids did not have a prescription. Also, more than 40% of those obtained the drug from friends or family members.

Indeed, the presence of unused prescription opioids that are not secured and properly disposed of increases the chance of drug diversion and abuse. Abusing opioids without a prescription also increases the risk of overdose and death. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, nearly 17,000 died of overdoses related to prescription opioids.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology



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