It’s now being called one of the most common complications you can have after surgery.
I’m not talking about a wound infection or a hospital-acquired bug, but the chronic use of opioid drugs.
And a new study from the University of Michigan found that it doesn’t matter if you’re having open heart surgery or a wart removed — if you’re given an opioid, chances are good that you’ll end up taking it far longer than that first Rx.
That’s putting a lot of seniors in a double jeopardy that they never saw coming because it’s not just a question of becoming addicted anymore. It’s a question of life and death.
The opioid alarm has been sounding for so long that I doubt most people even hear it any more. Especially when it comes to your doctor handing you a prescription for one of these drugs.
Certainly that’s okay, right? After all, he doesn’t want his patients becoming addicts! It’s just for a little bit while you recover from the post-operative pain and discomfort.
But what the Michigan researchers discovered is that far too often, that little window of recovery time never closes.
By investigating insurance data for around 36,000 patients — they found that of those who were prescribed the drugs and still taking them six months later, only a tiny percentage more had undergone major surgery.
The rest had minor procedures where you get sent home the same day, such as treatment of varicose veins or non-invasive surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Chad Brummett, believes that since the “rates of new chronic use did not differ between major and minor surgery,” the people who kept on taking the meds must’ve had other preexisting pain issues, such as arthritis.
But it really doesn’t matter what the reason is — these meds are highly addictive and could quite conceivably kill you — especially if you’re a senior.
Danger #1: Older people are routinely handed out drugs like Halloween candy, and very often off-label. That means you might easily be prescribed a literal killer cocktail of meds. Such drugs, when taken by themselves are bad enough — but put them together with an opioid, and you’ve got a combo that’s mighty close to what they use to execute death row prisoners.
Danger #2: Opioids (such as oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone and fentanyl) can trigger an irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and even sudden death.
Danger #3: According to data from the National Safety Council, seniors on opioid drugs suffer four times more bone fractures and are close to 90 percent more likely to die than those who take OTC meds for pain (not that those are considered by any means safe!).
Danger #4: These drugs can slow down your breathing to the point where you can die in your sleep. And they can be especially dangerous if you have sleep apnea or a respiratory condition already.
Don’t think you’re somehow protected if you very carefully follow your doctor’s dosing instructions. A recent study of 45,000 patients by Vanderbilt University Medical School found that 18 percent of those who died during the first six months of taking opioids had been carefully following their doctors’ dosing instructions but had overdosed accidentally.
As it stands right now, these meds have put millions of people in harm’s way, and it’s only going to get worse. The Michigan researchers said that when you add surgical outpatients to the tally, we’re looking at millions more becoming chronic opioid users.
So, if your doctor gives you any Rx to treat any kind of pain, surgical or otherwise, you need to check and see if it’s an opioid med.
Because there’s no reason why you should let a minor surgical procedure escalate into something that you could lose your life over.
“Opioid use common even after minor surgery” Lisa Rapaport, April 18, 2017, Reuters, foxnews.com