We all know that having surgery, even if it’s just a minor procedure, comes with some risk. Nevertheless, we sign those long release forms… and hope for the best.
But there’s a danger involved in having an operation — practically any operation — that you’re not being told about.
And the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has just issued a warning about this threat.
It’s not about the drugs that they pump into you to knock you out… or even anything that actually happens in the operating room or while you’re on the table!
In fact, it can begin its reign of terror just when you breathe a sigh of relief that everything is done and you’ll be home soon.
I’m talking about post-surgery opioids… and the haphazard way they’re being dispensed… and refilled… and refilled again and again.
It turns out that this kind of prolonged opioid use may be the most “common complication after elective surgery” — and it’s exactly what the doctor ordered!
After all, why would docs change their prescribing habits? A patient who leaves the office or hospital clutching a big bottle of heavy-duty pain pills is one who won’t be trying to reach them in the middle of the night if they’re hurting!
But if you want to avoid becoming a post-operative statistic, here’s what you need to know before this all-too-common practice changes your life… and not for the better.
How use becomes abuse
As Dr. James Grant, president of the ASA, puts it, “Nobody needs a prescription for 30 to 50 opioids.”
Even if you’re in a great deal of pain after surgery, you should only be taking them for a day… two at the most, he says.
Yet this new study from the ASA found that despite everything we know about this deadly drug crisis, many patients are sent home with a month’s supply — or more — of opioids.
Dr. Grant blames this overprescribing habit after surgery as being a big player in the entire opioid epidemic that’s been raging throughout America these past few years.
And this is far from the first time this kind of warning has been sounded.
Just last year, doctors from the University of Michigan (including some from the Division of Pain Medicine) conducted two different studies that revealed a couple of very important facts:
- It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re getting a bunion removed or having a hysterectomy, your doctor will hand out a boatload of OxyContin or Vicodin just as easily.
- The amounts of these risky meds that are given to patients aren’t based on pain research, complaints, or any other reason… other than a simply a guess. Surgeons treat this vitally important decision like they’re at a carnival trying to win the big teddy bear.
But the truth about post-surgical pain, experts say, is that soreness and discomfort after a procedure “are normal and will improve within a day or two.” And that’s regardless of whether you take an opioid.
Having sharp or intense pain could indicate a problem or complication that should send you right back to your doctor — not to the pharmacy so that you can drug it away.
Now, everyone is different… and everyone will react to these drugs in their own unique ways. In reality, there’s no set number of opioid pills that will tip the scales and lead to an addiction.
One of the Michigan researchers commented that after surgery is the first time many people are “introduced” to these kinds of drugs — what doctors often refer to as the “opioid naïve.”
And guess who most of those newbies are? Believe it or not, it’s seniors — those who’ve managed to soldier through the pain for most of their lives, and the very ones who stand the greatest chance of being harmed.
And that could be the best reason of all not to start up on opioids after surgery in the first place.
Ask your doctor for other options — because you just don’t know which pill will be one pill too many.
“Hot to avoid opioid addiction after surgery” Robert Preidt, January 30, 2018, HealthDay, health.usnews.com