Surgery Can Be Trigger for Teen Opioid Abuse

From - September 15, 2017

Surgery Can Be Trigger for Teen Opioid Abuse

FRIDAY, Sept. 15, 2017 -- Teens and young adults who have surgery may be at increased risk for opioid painkiller abuse, a new study indicates.

Opioids such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) are commonly prescribed for pain after surgery.

"And until recently, it was generally believed they were not addictive," said study lead author Dr. Calista Harbaugh. She's a general surgery resident at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"The study is an important step toward recognizing that the [U.S.] opioid epidemic is affecting adolescents and young adults in a major way," Harbaugh said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 90,000 privately insured U.S. patients aged 13 to 21 (average age 17) who underwent one of 13 common surgeries in this age group. The patients had no history of opioid painkiller prescriptions before their surgery.

The investigators 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.

The overall rate of persistent post-surgical use was nearly 5 percent, ranging from less than 3 percent to more than 15 percent depending on the type of surgery and other factors, the findings showed.

The rate was 0.1 percent in a "control group" of teens and young adults who did not have surgery.

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