CDC: Likelihood of chronic opioid use spikes with prescriptions longer than a few days

The probability of chronic opioid use spikes after just a few days of prescribed use, according to a new study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

For the study, CDC researchers examined health data on more than 1 million patients who were given at least one opioid prescription from June 1, 2006 through Sept. 1, 2015. Patients with cancer or a substance abuse disorder were excluded from the study.

Analysis found 6 percent of patients who were prescribed a one-day dose of opioids still used the medication a year later. However, this rate more than doubled to 13.5 percent for patients taking opioids for eight days or more. For individuals prescribed 31 days' worth of opioids, the rate of patients using the addictive painkillers a year later rose to 29.9 percent. Approximately 1 in 7 individuals included in the study who received a refill or had a second prescription were still using opioids a year later.

"The chances of long-term opioid use, use that lasts one year or more, start increasing with each additional day supplied, starting after the third day, and increase substantially after someone is prescribed five or more days, and especially after someone is prescribed one month of opioid therapy," said senior researcher Martin Bradley, PharmD, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical evaluation and policy at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, according to a HealthDay report.

"Discussions with patients about the long-term use of opioids to manage pain should occur early in the opioid-prescribing process," added Dr. Bradley.

More articles on opioids: 
4 things to know about the rising rates of chronic pain in the US 
Cedars-Sinai to study how education materials, electronic prompts can moderate opioid use 
Dartmouth-Hitchcock achieves 53% reduction in opioid prescriptions for outpatient procedures

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