LONDON, Ont. -- It’s a class of drugs that are commonly prescribed for pain management, but physician prescription of opioids looks to be increasing addiction risk.
“It’s a huge concern, it's a huge concern both in our specialty and I think in most surgical specialities and medicine in general,” says Dr. Jeffrey Campbell from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Campbell is part of a study by researchers at Western University and the Lawson Health Research Institute looking at opioid use in men - specifically those who had filled a prescription for opioids after minor surgery such as a vasectomy.
“What we were looking at predominantly was how many people continued to use opioids or narcotic a year after their initial prescription for a low-risk, minor urological surgery,” explains Lawson scientist Dr. Blayne Welk.
The research team collected data from 90,000 men in Ontario who underwent minor urologic surgery between 2013 and 2016.
“Patients who were filling prescriptions after these procedures were at a higher chance of becoming recurrent users," Campbell says. "Well out of the post-operative period these patients were still requiring opioid medication and there was a higher risk of them coming to the emergency department or hospital with an overdose related to opioids."
Which is something Welk says in many cases shouldn’t have been happening in the first place.
“The important thing to remember is most people actually didn’t need an opioid or narcotic prescription after these one of these procedures.”
The research team says the findings should be an eye opener for patients
According to Campbell, “Even if you get a prescription you don’t necessarily need to fill it, and there are long-term consequences of just filling that prescription after a procedure.”
Welk agrees but adds this should serve as an eye opener for medical professionals as well.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the role that the medical profession has played in the opioid crisis and I think now we have made good steps in changing practice.”