Changing Attitudes towards Post-Op Opioids

Changing Attitudes towards Post-Op Opioids

Opioids have been the pain management method of choice for post-surgery patients for several decades. However, with the frightening opioid crisis statistics still devastating every corner of the US, many are changing their attitudes and looking to other options. Experts are looking to avoid people’s exposure to opioids in any way possible, but due to the highly effective medical application of opioid pain killers, they continue to be the best for those who have undergone extensive, heavy surgical procedures. Still, the willingness and awareness of patients to move away from opioid pain management is a small glimmer of hope in a future that seems to be helpless against opioid use disorder.

The facts:

  • Approximately 20% of post-op patients continue to use opioid pain medications three months after surgery despite their recovery time not requiring such a long term pain management plan
  • Most post-op patients don’t need opioid pain management after three months unless they have a life-ending, terminal illness
  • Preliminary research in 2021 has found that those who continue to use opioid pain killers well beyond the projected time of pain treatment also tend to suffer from mental illness and pulmonary hypertension
  • Studies show that extended use of opioids post-op can prevent healing in some cases due to lack of resiliency and weakening of recovery and rehabilitation efforts
  • A survey found that a whopping 65% of Americans are concerned about managing post-op pain with opioids despite 80% believing they are still necessary

Pandemic-era Overdose Raising Awareness

The effect COVID-19 has had on many lives cannot be overstated, especially considering that fentanyl overdose death rates currently override COVID19 deaths nationally. The decrease in opioid prescriptions has worked to limit exposure, but there are still people receiving medications who have the propensity to become dependent after long-term pain management.

The current combination of people who have an untreated mental illness (such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder) during isolating measures to prevent the spread of the virus and the terrifying prevalence of fentanyl being found in street drugs has come to the attention of many. But patients are more likely to take direction from their medical providers than heed the statistics they see in the news regarding the dangers of opioid medication.

What’s the Solution?

There are very few studies conducted in the US that test the efficacy of non-opioid painkillers for post-op patients though a few recent trials seem promising. A significant difficulty is side-stepping the fact that medicinally used opioids are very effective for acute pain without ignoring the risk for addiction after prolonged use. Educating patients about their options for post-op care remains the most reasonable move as the nation continues to fight the opioid crisis along with an aging “Boomer” generation population that requires medical intervention. Also, the use of over-the-counter pain medications in place of prescription opioids seems to be changing minds in post-op recovery as well, although more research is needed to make any concrete conclusions. However, the reports of patients recovering more quickly and with more resilience are promising.

Middlesex Recovery is proud to provide addiction-treatment services for the communities more in need. Specialized medical providers, nurse practitioners, substance use counselors, and administrative staff provide compassionate and effective substance use disorder therapies for all patients in a private, comfortable office setting. Locate a nearby Middlesex Recovery office today and call or message us to learn more about our treatment programs.