Prescription Painkillers Can Lead to Addiction in Less than 1 Month of Use

A new study suggests that it takes just one month of opioid prescription for users to develop opioid addiction after a year. Researchers found that nearly a quarter of patients who were prescribed the drugs for just 12 days were still hooked on the drug a year later.

The Study’s Results

For the research, scientists sifted through data on 1.3 million patients who were prescribed painkillers between 2006 and 2015. None of the patients was diagnosed with cancer during that period and they used prescription opioids for the first time.

The research revealed that many patients on prescription painkillers who took the drugs for the first time – to either treat headaches, surgical pains, or fractures – ended up as long-term users.

In 2016, the CDC warned doctors against the risks of long-term opioid prescription for their patients. However, it was unclear when exactly patients developed addiction to the drugs.

The research revealed that 6% of participants who took opioids just for one day were still taking them after one year. Around 12% of participants were still taking the drug a year later after they were given a 6-day supply. What’s more, a whopping 24% of patients became dependent on the drug a year later if their first dose was for 12 days.

If the original prescription was for a full month, around half of patients were still taken the drugs a year later. Around a quarter were still taking the medication three years later on the same dose.

Researchers Stunned with The Findings

Lead author Bradley Martin said that no one can pinpoint the precise moment when patients develop addiction. However, the research team hadn’t expected addiction to set in in as early as 15 days.

That surprised us,

Martin said.

The findings come amidst an opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year. According to 2015 data, 15,000 Americans died that year because of opioid overdoses. The number of opioid overdoses has risen fourfold since 1999.

The study couldn’t tell between patients who chronically used the drugs and those who developed addiction. Experts say that patients who are physically hooked on the drugs use them for medical purposes, while those with an addiction problem use the drugs for non-medical purposes.

So, scientists warned doctors to think twice before prescribing a second refill because they might double their patients’ chance of developing an addiction within a year.

The study was published this week on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
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