You’ve likely heard about the opioid crisis.. Unfortunately, one of the populations being caught in this web of dependency is a group that’s already endured quite a lot when it comes to their health: cancer patients. New research has revealed startling information about cancer patients’ likelihood of developing opioid dependence after surgery.
Many doctors assume that the likelihood of opioid dependence after surgery is very small. But research conducted at the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates that this isn’t the case. For this study, the researchers identified nearly 40,000 cancer patients who had received opioid prescriptions following surgery intended to eradicate the cancer. Doctors generally expect patients to take these drugs for no more than two weeks after surgery. But the study found that three months after surgery, 10% of the patients were continuing to take high levels of opioids. Those who received chemotherapy after the surgery had an even greater risk, with 15% to 21% continuing to take high doses longer than recommended.
The research team is working with doctors to educate them about the risk, encouraging them to prescribe lower amounts of the drugs and teach their patients about how to manage their prescriptions appropriately. Patients need to know that these drugs should be a last resort, not their go-to pain-management technique. While doctors don’t want to leave their patients in pain after surgery, an opioid dependence is far worse.