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Postoperative Patients at Risk of Painkiller Addiction

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Postoperative Patients at Risk of Painkiller Addiction

May 25, 2016

A recent study published in Pain Medicine, a medical journal, indicates that patients who use prescription opioids before undergoing surgery are more likely to become addicted to prescription drugs following surgery.

The study found that individuals who take prescription painkillers after surgery may wind up increasing their tolerance for the drugs, which can lead to addiction and overdoses as the postoperative patients require greater, and more dangerous, dosages in order to alleviate their pain. By contrast, a patient who avoids using opioids in advance of surgery is less likely to become addicted to prescription narcotics over time.

Additionally, the study’s researchers found that patients who take more and more opioids before surgery end up with increased levels of pain sensitivity after surgery. This can actually make it harder for patients to wean themselves off painkillers later on because they will have a greater need for opioids to manage their painful symptoms.

What Should Doctors Do to Help Postoperative Patients Avoid Becoming Addicted to Painkillers?

Dr. Sesh C. Mudumbai, the study’s lead author, said that doctors should consider advising patients to take occasional “holidays” from opioids in the days and weeks following surgery. One way that physicians can encourage patients to avoid prescription medication, noted Mudumbai, is to “decrease postoperative opioid requirements,” so that the patients get in the habit of thinking that they don’t necessarily need the drugs all that often after undergoing surgery.

Another option for clinicians in the fight against prescription drug dependency is to use “multimodal regimens,” such as regional anesthesia, to help patients avoid becoming addicted to certain types of opioids.

One problem faced by health experts, doctors and clinicians when it comes to stopping prescription drug abuse before it becomes a serious problem for a particular patient is that there is not currently an effective way of tracking prescription drug use on a large scale. The study’s authors have stressed that a better tracking system for prescription painkillers would go a long way toward cutting down on prescription drug abuse in the U.S.

For further information, read the Forbes.com article, “How Long Does It Take Patients to Stop Taking Opioids after Surgery?”


If you or a loved one has been arrested for prescription drug possession, heroin possession, simple possession of marijuana or any other drug crime in New Jersey, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Rudnick, Addonizio, Pappa & Casazza PC can help you fight the charges and avoid the most severe penalties. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation about your case.

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