Mayo Clinic researchers found that 1 in 4 patients prescribed an opioid for the first time progress to long-term prescriptions. Study findings are published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Identifying patients at highest risk with using opioids long-term is important due to the widespread problems that result from misuse, stated study lead author W. Michael Hooten, MD, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. In the study, researchers analyzed a random sample of 293 patients who received a new opioid prescription (eg, oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, meperidine, codeine, methadone) in 2009 using the National Institutes of Health-funded Rochester Epidemiology Project.

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The study found that 21% (n=61) progressed from short-term use to prescriptions lasting 3-4 months, and 6% (n=19) progressed to more than a four-month supply of the medication. Past or present nicotine use and substance abuse were established as top risk factors for long-term opioid use. Healthcare providers should be especially careful when prescribing opioids to patients with these histories, Dr. Hooten noted. If opioids are necessary, lowering the dose and limiting the duration of use is important, he added.

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