A new study led by researchers at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed opioid prescription data from the Department of Defense Military Health System Data Repository, identifying more than 200,000 opioid-naïve individuals who had undergone one of eight common surgical procedures between 2006 and 2014 and were subsequently prescribed opioid pain medication. Their findings appear in JAMA Surgery as a featured article for the week of Sept. 27.
Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Misuse of and addiction to opioids has become a public health crisis with more than 2 million Americans suffering from substance abuse issues related to prescription opioid pain medication. While over-prescription of pain medications has been implicated as a driver of this growing opioid epidemic, few guidelines exist on how to appropriately prescribe opioid pain medication following surgery with the goal of balancing pain with risk of addiction. There have been several recent governmental efforts to address the rise in opioid pain medication prescriptions, which quadrupled between 1999 and 2012. In Mass. and New York, legislation has limited initial prescription lengths to less than seven days and driven the development of drug monitoring programs.