Despite crisis, most patients want to take opioids after surgery

While opioids may effectively relieve pain after surgeries and procedures, they may not be the best option in all cases.

Washington: Even with concerns about addiction, side effects and the other risks of opioids are dominating headlines. A study found that people expect to be prescribed opioids and perceive them to be the most effective form of pain relief after surgery.

Interestingly, it was also found that opioids led to complications such as increased pain, poorer quality of life and dependence following back surgery.

While opioids may effectively relieve pain after surgeries and procedures, they may not be the best option in all cases. Opioids can be highly addictive and carry some risks and side effects, such as sleepiness, constipation, and nausea, as well as life-threatening shallow breathing and slowed heart rate, which may indicate an overdose.

"Patients often assume they will receive opioids for pain, believing they are superior, and therefore may pressure physicians to prescribe them after surgery," said Nirmal B. Shah, lead author of the study. "But research shows opioids often aren't necessarily more effective. Clearly, we need to provide more education to bridge that gap and help patients understand that there are many options for pain relief after surgery, including other pain medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen."

In the first study, researchers set out to understand the expectations of pain management after surgery. They gave a 13-question survey to 503 adults who were scheduled to have surgery for the back, ear-nose-and-throat, abdomen, or hip or knee replacement.

Everyone responded that they expected to receive pain medication after surgery. 77 percent expected opioids, such as morphine, fentanyl, and Dilaudid. 37 percent expected acetaminophen, such as Tylenol while 18 percent expected a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), such as Motrin.

The majority of patients believed opioids would be most effective, even if they didn't expect to receive them: 94 percent of those who assumed they would get opioids thought they would be effective, as did 67.5 percent of those who didn't expect to receive them. Only 35.6 percent of patients expecting to receive acetaminophen thought it would be effective and 53.1 percent of those expecting to receive NSAIDs thought they would be effective.

"In previous opioid research, we found only 10 percent of people were worried about respiratory problems and 40 percent were concerned about nausea or constipation," Shah. "We believe there is a lack of education and understanding of the dangerous side effects of these drugs, which contributes to the epidemic.

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