As you have probably heard, the country is currently in the grips of a massive opioid epidemic. In 2010, 16,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose. That was four times as many as in 1999. By 2015, that number had nearly tripled to 52,000 deaths. The death toll continues to rise. This problem is formally recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services. This past March, the governor of Maryland even went so far as to declare a State of Emergency because of the problemís severity. While the epidemic is full of complexity, one factor certainly playing a role in its growth is that these powerful medications are prescribed to many patients after only minor operations.†
Factors That May Lead to Opioid Abuse
According to a recent study, patients are equally likely to become chronic opioid users after minor operations as they are following major ones. Among people who are prescribed opioids for reasons unrelated to surgery, only 0.4% will develop a problem. After a major surgery, the rate is 6.5%. However, that is only slightly higher than the rate for patients who have had minor operations, which is 5.9%. A better identifier for who will become a chronic user seems to be the personís history with chronic pain. Those who became addicted to opioids after any type of surgery were 50% more likely to have previously suffered from arthritis or chronic back pain. Smoking also played a role. Smokers were 34% more likely to abuse opioids they were prescribed following surgery. For those who had preexisting substance or alcohol use problems, the odds of becoming addicted were also 34% higher.† These factors have led many experts to call for better screening practices before opioids are prescribed.††
Donít Risk Becoming a Victim of the Opioid Epidemic
No one plans to become addicted to opioids, but when you combine the strength of these drugs and the pain people are often in when they begin taking them, itís not hard to see how we got to a crisis. It also shouldnít come as too much of a surprise that people with chronic back pain are especially susceptible to becoming addicted. The pain can be so severe that patients will accept just about any fate if it means some kind of relief. Fortunately, if you experience pain, your local chiropractor may be able to help. Their noninvasive treatments can be quick, are often highly effective, and importantly donít involve the use of prescription medications. In fact, some patients feel better than they have in years after just one adjustment. Call your local chiropractor today if youíre suffering from pain that wonít seem to go away.