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Opioid crisis driven by wrongly prescribed painkillers

By James Matthews, news correspondent

A new study shows that a growing opioid crisis is being driven partly by the amount of strong painkillers being given, wrongly, to surgery patients.

The use of prescription opioids more than doubled worldwide between 2001 and 2013.

Researchers who conducted the global study found that an increased reliance on strong opioids was associated with a rising epidemic of their misuse and overdose-related deaths.

The study concluded that 10% of patients experienced chronic pain following surgery.

Clinicians often prescribe higher levels of opioids which can lead to increased pain and increased opioid use.

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The inappropriate prescription of opioids was found to be a substantial contributor to the opioid crisis.

Image: The use of prescription opioids more than doubled worldwide between 2001 and 2013

Professor Lesley Colvin, from the University of Dundee, told Sky News: "Most people are aware of the opioid epidemic in the States, where there's been a huge increase in strong opioids prescribed for the management of chronic pain.

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"One of the things we're trying to do is find out why that's happened, so there's no doubt that one of the contributors has been the people who have had surgery, they need strong painkillers afterwards… those painkillers are sometimes not stopped when they should be.

"People carry on, sometimes with chronic pain, but they carry on with bigger doses of opioids so they end up with the problems of the side effects, misuse problems, tolerance, opioid-induced hyperalgesia (an increase in pain in line with increased opioid consumption)."

The opioid crisis began in the United States in the mid-1990s when inadequate pain relief was perceived as poor quality healthcare. In 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis in the US a "national public health emergency".

Opioids are now one of the most commonly prescribed medication in the USA. Prescriptions for the drugs has also markedly increased in other high-income countries, including the UK.

Most people are aware of the opioid epidemic in the US
Image: The opioid crisis began in the US and emerged from perceptions of inadequate pain relief

The study found differences between countries in prescribing opioids after surgery.

Data comparing one US and one Dutch hospital found that 77% of patients undergoing hip fracture repair in the US hospital received opioids, whereas none did in the Netherlands hospital, and 82% of US patients received opioids after ankle fracture repair compared with 6% of Dutch patients.

Despite these differences, patients in each of these countries show similar levels of satisfaction with pain management.

In addition, excessive amounts of Read More – Source

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