As the opioid epidemic continues to grow at an alarming rate in America, we are beginning to better understand the role that opioid prescriptions play in contributing to this problem. A recent article from the British Medical Journal titled “Postsurgical prescriptions for opioid naïve patients and association with overdose and misuse: retrospective cohort study” highlights an important issue facing doctors and patients today. This study shows a clear correlation between the length of time a person was prescribed opioids and the likelihood of misuse.
The research outcomes demonstrates that each additional week of prescribed opioid use post-discharge was associated with a 34.2% increase in the rate of misuse. This did not seem to follow the same risk related to the dose. The actual dose prescribed only became important with extended use. My conclusions from this point toward my continued opinion that surgeons and dentist should be very conservative in their postoperative prescribing as there is clear evidence pointing to significant risk of opioid misuse and addiction with prolonged prescriptions.
This study adds to the growing research that for for most general procedures surgeons should try to limit prescriptions to one week or less after the procedure or discharge and then provide no more than 1 additional week of post-operative opioid medications without extenuating circumstances. This should help limit new cases of opioid addiction developing and strengthen the push to more non-narcotic methods of pain relief.