Skip 
Navigation Link
Addictions
Resources
Basic Information
What is Addiction?What Causes Addiction?How Do You Get Addicted?Signs and Symptoms of AddictionTreatment for AddictionReferencesResourcesFrequentlly Asked Questions about Addiction
TestsLatest News
Health Tip: Recovering From Substance AbuseMedicare Could Do More to Stem Opioid EpidemicNew Online Tool Aids Search for Alcohol TreatmentHeroin Taking Bigger Share of U.S. Opioid ODsRapid Test for Meth Abuse May Be NearPost-Op Opioids: How Much Is Enough?CDC Launches Opioid Campaign in Hard-Hit StatesERs Prescribing Opioids at Lower Doses, Shorter DurationsAddictive Opioids Common for People on DialysisBooze Often Glorified On YouTube VideosOpioid ODs Have Cut Into U.S. Life Expectancy: CDCAAP: Opioid Dependence/Abuse Public Health Issue for ChildrenSurgery Can Be Trigger for Teen Opioid AbuseFDA Permits Marketing of App to Help Treat Substance AbuseApp to Help Treat Substance Abuse ApprovedFentanyl Drives Rise in Opioid-Linked Deaths in U.S.Opioid Overdoses and Deaths Flooding U.S. HospitalsIncrease in Alcohol Use, High-Risk Drinking in U.S. AdultsAlcohol Use, Abuse on the Rise in U.S.U.S. Opioid Crisis Continues to Worsen'12-Step' Strategy Boosts Success of Teen Drug Abuse ProgramAddiction Drug Underused by Primary Care Docs in U.S.7-Fold Spike Seen in Opioid-Linked Fatal Car CrashesNew Alcohol Screening, Brief Intervention Manual DevelopedOpioid Abuse Down in Younger Americans, But Up Among Older AdultsTreating ADHD May Help Curb Later Drinking, Drug ProblemsNearly 1 in 5 U.S. Adults Has Mental Illness or Drug ProblemCan Fetal Alcohol Damage Be Undone?Hospitalists Have Role to Play in Mitigating Opioid Use DisorderOpioids Second Only to Marijuana in Illicit Drug Abuse RatesEnding U.S. Opioid Abuse Epidemic Will Take Years: ReportMore Research Shows Big Surge in U.S. Opioid Use, AddictionsOpioid Addicts Find It Hard to Avoid FentanylAddicts Try to Avoid Deadly Fentanyl, But Many Tragically FailPot Plus Booze: A Deadly Mix Behind the WheelAs U.S. Heroin Use Reaches 20-Year High, Cost to Society SoarsHeroin Vaccine Blocks Drug High in Tests on MonkeysElite High Schools Breed Higher Risk of Addiction: StudyDid a 1980 Letter Help Spark the U.S. Opioid Crisis?1 in 4 Americans Knows Someone Hooked on Opioids: PollIt's Often Family to the Rescue During Opioid ODsGuidelines Issued on Substance Use Disorder Treatment in NursesDrug-Impaired Driving Continuing to Rise in the United StatesDrugs Now Involved in More Fatal U.S. Crashes Than Alcohol AloneClinician Awareness of Exercise Addiction May Be LackingHigher Illicit Pot Use in States That OK Medical Marijuana: StudyTrump Administration Offers Grants to Fight Opioid CrisisOpioid Abusers at Higher Death Risk When Addiction Specialists Not Part of CareMany Opioid Addictions Surface After Surgery, Study FindsRehab Services Lacking in States Hit Hard by Opioids
Questions and AnswersLinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Related Topics

Anxiety Disorders
Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Op Opioids: How Much Is Enough?

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Sep 27th 2017

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 27, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Amid efforts to stem the U.S. opioid crisis, a new study suggests how long patients should take prescription opioid painkillers after surgery.

After general surgery, the ideal duration is four to nine days, said researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

For women's health procedures, four to 13 days is appropriate, while six to 15 days of narcotic painkillers is reasonable for musculoskeletal surgery, according to the study.

"An opioid prescription after surgery should balance adequate pain treatment with minimizing the duration of treatment and potential for medication complications, including issues with dependence," wrote Dr. Louis Nguyen and colleagues.

Overuse of opioid painkillers -- such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone) -- has contributed to the opioid abuse epidemic and the skyrocketing rate of overdose deaths in the United States.

Four times as many opioid prescriptions were issued in the United States in 2012 as in 1999, the researchers noted.

Medical experts acknowledge the dilemma.

"We all know that surgery can be painful, and one of the best painkillers that we have are opioid pain medications," said Dr. Yili Huang. He is director of the Pain Management Center at Northwell Health's Phelps Hospital, in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

"Unfortunately, overprescription of these medications has contributed to the current 'opioid crisis' associated with a surge in overdose deaths in the United States," Huang added. "Millions of Americans have become chronically dependent on these pain medications that can cause a wide range of adverse effects," he said.

"In response, many governmental efforts have limited the initial prescription of opioid pain medications to fewer than seven days," Huang noted. "But is that enough?"

An addiction expert welcomed the suggested guidelines.

"Despite ongoing policy efforts and public awareness campaigns, overprescribing of opioid medications remains a nagging symptom of much deeper systemic issues," said Dr. Harshal Kirane, director of addiction services at Staten Island University Hospital, in New York City.

"Most U.S. physicians lack any formal clinical education in pain management or addiction care," Kirane explained. "As such, guidelines for opioid management are critical in shaping physicians' practices and, to date, most guidelines focus on restricting access without consideration of clinical context."

The new report "puts forth a framework for optimizing opioid management following common surgeries. This is an important step forward in developing a much-needed evidence-base for future guidelines," Kirane said. "Notably, their findings suggest different types of surgical procedures benefit from distinct durations of opioid management."

In the new study, researchers analyzed U.S. Department of Defense data from more than 215,000 patients who had common operations, including gallbladder removal, hysterectomy and back surgery.

Week-long prescriptions aren't enough after some procedures, the researchers reported Sept. 27 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

Seven-day limits on initial opioid painkiller prescriptions "are likely adequate in many settings, and indeed also sufficient for many common general surgery and gynecologic procedures," the study authors wrote.

However, "in the postoperative setting, particularly after many orthopedic and neurosurgical procedures, a seven-day limit may be inappropriately restrictive," Nguyen and colleagues said in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on prescription opioids.