A new study finds 20% of surgical patients who start taking prescription opioids after their procedure continue to take them three months after surgery.
Few patients should still need opioids three months after surgery unless they have cancer or had chronic pain before the procedure, the researchers said.
“The more than 100 million surgeries in the U.S. every year create an unintended and alarming gateway to long-term opioid use,” lead author Gia Pittet of UCLA said in a news release.
The study included data from almost 14,000 adults who had surgery between 2013 and 2019, HealthDay reports. None had filled a prescription for an opioid painkiller for up to a year before their surgery. After the surgery, they were prescribed opioids to control pain. One-fifth of patients refilled their prescription between three months and one year after their operation.
Dr. Pittet said surgery patients should receive counseling about the safe use of opioids and be offered alternative pain management choices. They should be monitored frequently and closely while they are taking opioids, Dr. Pittet said.