Last year, around 3 million Americans became chronic opioid users after having a surgery.
That’s the conclusion from a report by research firm QuintilesIMS Institute For Healthcare Informatics that was recently released.
Which surgeries led to longer-term narcotic use?
According to the report, colectomies are the surgery most likely to trigger persistent narcotic use, which is defined in the report as someone taking painkillers three to six months after surgery. In fact, about 18 percent of colectomy patients went on to become long-term opioid users.
Knee replacement patients were a close second at 17 percent. Patients who’d had hernias and hysterectomies, meanwhile, carried a 7 percent risk of becoming chronic narcotic users.
Postoperative pain from colectomies can vary widely, depending on the size of the incision, which helps explain why some patients may use painkillers for a longer period of time. Knee replacements are also known to be painful for a longer period of time after surgery.
A study published in Jama Internal Medicine last year also found that knee replacements had one of the highest incidences of long-term opioid use (that study did not include colectomies).
Compared to other health issues, however, surgeries have not been the main driver of the opioid epidemic. A study released earlier this year found that patients with “back pain” or other “ill-defined” ailments were the most likely to become addicted to painkillers.