Some People Undergoing Weight-Loss Surgery End Up Using More Opioids

A new study suggests people undergoing weight-loss surgery who were chronic users of opioid painkillers before the procedure increase their drug intake afterwards. The findings surprised the researchers, who said they thought the dramatic weight loss that generally follows the surgery would alleviate patients’ pain in the knees, back and other joints.

People undergoing weight-loss surgery who regularly used painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin increased their intake of these drugs by 13 percent in the first year after surgery, and by 18 percent in the three years after the procedure, HealthDay reports.

The study included data from more than 11,700 adults who had weight-loss surgery. About 8 percent were chronic users of opioids. Among these patients, 77 percent continued taking opioids during the year after surgery. The amount of weight a person lost did not influence their drug use, the researchers noted.

“One possible explanation is that some patients likely had pain unresponsive to weight loss but potentially responsive to opioids,” the authors write in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

“We have patients who have pain that simply doesn’t respond to weight loss,” study author Marsha Raebel of Kaiser Permanente Colorado in Denver told Healthday. “If the patient thinks that’s the reason they’re going to have bariatric surgery, there should be some counseling to explain their pain may or may not get better after surgery.”

She said that people who are obese are more sensitive to pain and have lower pain thresholds than people who aren’t obese. “This altered pain processing continues even after they undergo bariatric surgery,” she added.

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    Debra Mullen

    October 10, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    My name is Debra and I’m a recovering addict of 27 years. My drug of choice was Heroin, and if that wasn’t available it was Dilaudid. I had the gasto by-pass surgery about 9 years ago. I’m very much involved with my 12 step recovery program and still today! When I saw my Dr I told him I was an addict. I tell all my Drs I’m an addict so in the event I am needing a pain killer they know my history. This last year I had kidney stones and I needed pain medicine. I was prescribed endocet and took the pills AS NEEDED..If a person is wanting to be clean they need to be responsible for their recovery. I started at 345 pounds, and I’m currently weighing in at 188. I have to replace my knees as they are bone to bone. I DO NOT use pain killers to “get by”. I feel that is an excuse to keep getting narcotics. People can really have a fantastic life once the drugs are out of ones system. You have to want this. Many people need recovery, however not every one wants recovery. Thank You, Fondly, Debra (a very grateful recovering addict)

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