Opioid Addiction After Surgery: How to Avoid It

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Following surgery, many patients head home with prescriptions for 30 or more opioid painkillers — enough to trigger addiction, warns a leading group of anesthesiologists.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists recommends using prescription painkillers sparingly, if at all, after surgery.

“Nobody needs a prescription for 30 or 50 opioids, and even those who are in major pain and may benefit should only take them for a day or two,” said Dr. James Grant, society president.

“There are effective alternatives and many people don’t need opioids at all or at least should drastically reduce the amount they take,” Grant said in a society news release.

Opioid painkillers — such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) — are highly addictive. And addiction can develop after taking just a few of them, the society warned.

Grant said post-surgical prescription practices have played a role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.

Despite the risk of dependence, many surgery patients receive prescriptions for a month’s supply or more of opioid pills. And about 6 percent are still using them three months or longer after their surgery, according to a study published last year in JAMA Surgery.

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SOURCE: American Society of Anesthesiologists, news release, Jan. 22, 2018

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