Study Finds Excess Pills Prescribed for Post-Operative Pain

Researchers find that patients are prescribed more pills than necessary after common surgical procedures

Marta Pagán-Ortiz
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An article published in the Annals of Surgery focuses on opioid prescribing after general surgical procedures to better understand prescription practices. The authors, led by Dr. Richard J. Barth Jr., found that patients typically need much less medication than they are prescribed, thus surgeons can and should consider other prescribing options.

“By incorporating these findings into practice it will be possible to both adequately treat patients’ postoperative pain and decrease the amount of unused opioid pills available for misuse, abuse or diversion.”

Photo credit: Flickr
Photo credit: Flickr

For this study, 642 individuals were recruited – all of which were undergoing outpatient procedures. The procedures included mastectomies and hernia repairs. After prescriptions and refills data were tabulated, participants were then surveyed on amount of pills taken. The researchers found wide variation in the prescriptions between patients undergoing the same surgical procedures, and they estimated that individuals only needed about 43% of the medication they were prescribed.

Opioid medication, which is typically prescribed post-surgery, has been found to have serious risks for which U.S. agencies and providers have already expressed concern. One of the major issues regarding surgery-related pain is that depending on a number of factors, it very commonly becomes chronic pain, which is also treated with opioids and antidepressants.

Pain research currently is focusing more on cognitive processes and in understanding pain as an “actively constructed experience”, therefore suggesting that individuals with higher levels of distress are more vulnerable to pain issues. Given these concerns some experts are advocating for coverage for more comprehensive care including complementary approaches, pain psychology, and pain management strategies.

 

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Hill, M. V., McMahon, M. L., Stucke, R. S., & Barth Jr, R. J. (2016). Wide variation and excessive dosage of opioid prescriptions for common general surgical procedures. Annals of Surgery. (Abstract)

4 COMMENTS

  1. Stop The War On Chronic Pain Patients https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/05/stop-the-war-on-chronic-pain-patients/

    Sorry but if the time ever comes I don’t want a DEA agent in the room with me and my doctor.

    ‘Opioid Epidemic’ Myths
    Prescription painkillers are not as deadly or as addictive as commonly claimed. The risk of addiction also has been exaggerated. According to NSDUH, those 259 million painkiller prescriptions in 2012 resulted in about 2 million cases of “dependence or abuse,” or one for every 130 prescriptions. A recent study by Castlight Health estimated that 4.5 percent of people who have received opioid prescriptions qualify as “abusers,” and its definition, based on the amount prescribed and the number of prescribers, probably captures some legitimate patients as well.
    http://reason.com/archives/2016/05/18/opioid-epidemic-myths

    “By incorporating these findings into practice it will be possible to both adequately treat patients’ postoperative pain and decrease the amount of unused opioid pills available for misuse, abuse or diversion.”

    Who gets to define “adequate” ? But anyway great, hope I never need surgery cause they will be more worried about the drug war then how I feel.

    Why should I sit there in pain cause the next guy, or one for every 130, might abuse his pills ???

  2. One member of my extended family has died of opioid addiction, and another suffered excruciating brain zaps for weeks when detoxing from an opioid prescribed by her doctor. What keeps me from being surprised by all this is what I experienced myself when I was in the hospital a couple of years ago. My post surgical pain was not severe and I wanted to avoid the constipation caused by pain medication, so I refused to take anything beyond Tylenol. This so upset the nurse that she called my daughter and asked for her help in “getting your mother to take her pain meds.” I’m all for people getting it when they really need it, but seems to me opioids and other psychoactive drugs are being pushed far too much by naive doctors and nurses.