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1 in 5 Patients on a 10 Day Supply of Opioids Become Dependent

1 in 5 Patients on a 10 Day Supply of Opioids Become Dependent

Author: Shernide Delva 

The opioid epidemic is estimated to cause 91 overdose fatalities every day in the United States. Doctors regularly receive scrutiny due to a history of overprescribing opioids. Studies reveal the longer a person uses opioids, the greater risk they have of forming a deadly addiction. But how long does it take to become a problematic user?

A few weeks?

A month?


 Just mere days.

A new study revealed people given an initial opioid prescription of 10-days had a 1 in 5 of becoming long-term opioid users.  With each passing day of opioid use, the risk of addiction heightens.

Let’s break it down:

Risk of Opioid Dependency

  • One-Day Supply– Person has 6% chance of being on opioids a year later
  • Five-Day Supply– Person has a 10% chance of being on opioids a year later
  • Six-Day Supply- Person has a 12% chance of being on opioids a year later
  • 10-Day Supply– Person has a 20% chance of being on opioids a year later

As you can see, just a 10-day opioid prescription increases the risk of opioid dependency significantly.  The study was conducted by lead author Bradley Martin, a professor of pharmaceutical evaluation and policy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science.

“We really didn’t expect that,” Martin stated.

According to the rest of the data, things just continue to worsen from that point on.

Shocking Stats:

  • 91% of patients who survive an opioid overdose are prescribed more
  • Those given a 30-day supply had a 45% chance of staying on opioids after a year.
  • Those given a 30-day supply combined (after multiple refills) had a 30% chance of being on opioids for a year and a 20% chance of being on them for three years.

Fortunately, it is very rare for a patient to receive a 30-day stash of opioids all at once. Only about seven percent of those studied were able to get such a long-duration prescription.

Martin and his colleagues tracked the prescription records of nearly 1.3 million patients.

These patients:

  • Received at least one opioid prescription between June 2006 and Sept. 2015.
  • Were Cancer Free
  • Were 18 or older

Key factors that increased the risk of dependency were getting a high dose of opioids (700mg or greater), and receiving a refill or other opioid prescription.

Martin hopes the results of the study will help prescribers make more informed choices when giving patients powerful drugs. Last year, the CDC released guidelines for prescribing opioids

The CDC now wants opioid prescribers to:

  • Recommend weak, short doses (ideally three days for acute pain)
  • Refrain from prescribing opioids for chronic pain (except for cancer patients and end-of-life care)

Martin and his colleagues did discover that less than one percent of patients received prescriptions for powerful, long-acting opioids used for chronic pain. This suggests that intentional pain prescriptions are uncommon. However, they found that 10 percent of patients get tramadol, which is considered a safe opioid. Therefore, this may hint that intentional prescriptions for chronic pain are still occurring.

Should doctors limit prescribing opioids? Were you surprised by this study? In all seriousness, addiction is a serious epidemic, but it is a difficult topic due to patients who have chronic pain. The question remains on how to address this issue. Still, if you feel like you may have a dependency on opioids, please reach out for help. Do not feel afraid. You are not alone. Experts are waiting to help you get treatment. Call now.

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