Bring An Equalizer to the Fight. Choose a Firm That Was Created to Advocate for Victims.

Adolescents Prescribed Opioids After Common Surgeries Are at Risk of Addiction

Pills and SyringeA new study highlights that adults are not the only victims of the growing opioid epidemic. It found that pain medications prescribed after common surgeries may become a pathway to continued, nonmedical opioid use by teens and young adults.

Prior research has confirmed that many adults become addicted to using opioids after surgery. This is the first study to reveal that long-term opioid use may also be a significant risk for adolescents and young adults who undergo common surgical procedures.

"Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain after surgery, and until recently it was generally believed they were not addictive," said lead abstract author Calista Harbaugh, M.D., a general surgery resident at the University of Michigan Medical School and pediatric surgery researcher at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the Michigan Opioid Engagement Network.

As detailed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers examined data including nearly 90,000 privately insured U.S. patients between ages 13 and 21 (average age 17) with no previous opioid prescriptions who underwent one of 13 common surgeries for this age group. They looked for persistent opioid use, defined as continued prescription refills 90 to 180 days after the surgical procedure and beyond what is expected after routine surgery.

Their analysis revealed that the incidence of new persistent opioid use following surgery was 4.8 percent, ranging from 2.7 percent to 15.2 percent across procedures. By comparison, the incidence for the nonoperative control group was just 0.1 percent.

The risk of opioid addiction was highest after gallbladder removal and colon surgery. The researchers also found older youth with additional chronic conditions, depression, anxiety, or prior substance use disorders were at greater risk.

The study suggests that doctors should consider the risk of addiction when weighing the benefits and risks of prescribing opioids to manage pain. Harbaugh agreed. "We need to make sure that we treat pain after surgery, but it must be balanced with the risk of providing more opioid than necessary to patients and their communities," she said.

If you have questions about negligent prescription, our San Diego medical malpractice attorneys are readily available to help and review your case. Contact us today for a FREE consultation.