ROCHESTER, Minn. — Opioid painkiller addiction and accidental overdoses have become far too common across the United States. To try to identify who is most at risk, Mayo Clinic researchers studied how many patients prescribed an opioid painkiller for the first time progressed to long-term prescriptions. The answer: 1 in 4. People with histories of tobacco use and substance abuse were likeliest to use opioid painkillers long-term.
The findings are published in the July issue of the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
While the study identified past or present nicotine use and substance abuse as top risk factors for long-term use of opioids, all patients should proceed with caution when offered opioid painkiller prescriptions, says lead author W. Michael Hooten, M.D., an anesthesiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
“From a patient perspective, it is important to recognize the potential risks associated with these medications. I encourage use of alternative methods to manage pain, including non-opioid analgesics or other nonmedication approaches,” Dr. Hooten says. “That reduces or even eliminates the risk of these medications transitioning to another problem that was never intended.”
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