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Substance Abuse Linked To Long-Term Opioid Use

So much attention is being put on opiate abuse and overdoses. It is such a hard problem to tackle because so many of those people who become addicted to opiates and eventually die from overdoses to these drugs, start off taking them through legitimate prescriptions written by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain. Interesting enough, nearly a quarter of patients who are prescribed opioid medications will grow into long-term users of the medications. Patients who currently use nicotine or have so in the past and patients who have a history with substance abuse are more likely to continue using opioid medications for the long-term.

“Many people will suggest it’s actually a national epidemic. Many people now are experiencing fatal overdose related to opioid use than compared to heroin and cocaine combined,” W. Michael Hooten, MD, department of anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic.

In order to come up with the data for the study, Dr. Hooten and many colleagues analyzed patients medical records from 2009. These patients all were residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota. These patients were then analyzed to see the percentage of them that went from newly prescribed patients of opioid medications, to long-term patients prescribed these medications.

The total number of opioid prescriptions written were 515 and they were written for 293 patients. The ailments that most commonly caused the prescribing of opioid medications were for surgery, painful procedures, musculoskeletal pain and trauma. What is also interesting is that over 60% of those prescribed these powerful narcotic painkillers were female. Twenty one percent of patients were prescribed opioid medications occasionally and at irregular intervals but most importantly is that six percent of patients prescribed became long-term users of these medications.

What comes as no surprise to anyone is the link of long-term use of opioid medications and prior issues with substance abuse. The results found that long-term opioid prescribing patterns were strongly associated with the substance abuse.

The researchers shared their desire and the importance of finding key characteristics of those patients who are at a higher risk of using the opioid medications for the long-term. Doing so will allow prescribers to intervene at an earlier time in therapy and try other forms of pain management. Researchers are looking to a new study that will analyze data associated with the dosage size of medications and its relationship with long-term use of opioid medications.


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