You’re not addicted to anything, except maybe that morning coffee. You fall playing a pick-up game of basketball and break your ankle. A visit to the doctor leads to a visit to the hospital because of some complication that requires surgery. The doctor tells you to stay off it for six weeks, and prescribes you Codeine for the pain. Your bottle has 50 pills, and you are supposed to take 1-2 as needed, with several hours between doses. By day 20, taking the Codeine is such a routine that your body wants it for the daily grind… every day. Your prescription runs out, and at first you’re fine, but you bump your injury on your car door and the first thought that crosses your mind is, “Where is my damn Codeine?” You call the doctor, feign the intensity of the pain at the time, and acquire another bottle of Codeine pills. This makes you happy, not because you need them for the pain (which is barely there now), but because you want them. Then, when that bottle is gone, much sooner than the first, you go into a slump, and decide to take matters into your own hands. An old high school friend occasionally does heroin, and you ring her up. Two weeks later, you’re buying your own heroin and abusing it at home.
You are now a heroin addict, and like many people, you became addicted post-surgery because of opiate prescription. The University of Buffalo conducted a study that showed 42% of patients in drug rehabilitation for opiates developed the addiction post-surgery from a pain-management drug. Even more shocking, 92% of this group of post-surgery addicts admitted to abusing illicit drugs such as heroin during the addiction. Most shocking of all: three-quarters of those studied had doctors who never asked about a history of drug abuse. Perhaps some better communication would help here. Opiate-based medication being given to those in pain seems to be a recipe for addiction.
Someone We All Know
Given the outrageous number of opiate addicts today, chances are you or someone you know is affected by the epidemic. Recently the world lost Prince due to a quiet addiction to opiate-based pain medication. Someone who lived through an opiate-based addiction is “scream queen” Jamie Lee Curtis. In an interview with People magazine
, she explains she was addicted to opiates for 17 years. More poignantly, she states how there have been countless “…attempts at reigning in the over-prescription of opiates,” and that “most people who become addicted do so after a prescription for a painkiller following a medical procedure.” If the celebrity world doesn’t reinforce the dangers, surely the medical world will.
To take them or not to take them
Doctors are indeed faced with a difficult situation when it comes to what to prescribe. Many factors must be taken into account, but unfortunately not all of them currently are, hence the high rates of post-surgery addiction. Alcoholrehab.com published a thorough list of suggestions for safe use of post-surgery opiates, available here
. The important thing is to be honest with your own self. Leaving a patient in pain is inhumane, and no doctor will do it. After a surgery, chances of receiving an opiate-based painkiller are high. You are then responsible for the safe usage of the drug. Plenty of prescription drug drop-off sites exist for safe disposal of leftover prescriptions, and a locator for this service can be found here
. Risk factors for developing a post-surgery addiction are important to be aware of as well, and according to a study in Anesthesia & Analgesia
, the official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society, there are three main risk factors:
- Patients with prior use/abuse of opiates have a 73% increased chance of developing a post-surgery addiction.
- Patients who rate themselves as addiction-prone have a 53% increased chance.
- Patients with symptoms of depression have a 42% increased chance.
Be honest with yourself, because nobody else knows exactly what’s going on. Taking painkillers after a surgery is a normalcy, but unfortunately, developing an addiction afterward is becoming all too common.