(HealthDay News) — Doctors who limit the supply of opioids they prescribe to three days or less may help patients reduce their risk of dependence and addiction, according to research published in the March 17 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Researchers looked at a sample of patients drawn from data from health insurers and managed care plans. Specifically, they looked at opioid use among patients not being treated for cancer. Among patients without cancer, a single day’s supply of an opioid can result in 6.0 percent of patients being on an opioid a year later, the researchers said.
The odds of long-term opioid use increased most sharply in the first days of therapy, particularly after five days of taking the drugs. The rate of long-term opioid use increased to 13.5 percent for patients who first took the drugs for eight days or more. The highest probability of continued opioid use at one and three years was seen among patients who started on a long-acting opioid, followed by patients who started on tramadol.
“Awareness among prescribers, pharmacists, and persons managing pharmacy benefits that authorization of a second opioid prescription doubles the risk for opioid use one year later might deter overprescribing of opioids. Knowledge that the risks for chronic opioid use increase with each additional day supplied might help clinicians evaluate their initial opioid prescribing decisions and potentially reduce the risk for long-term opioid use,” the authors write. “Discussions with patients about the long-term use of opioids to manage pain should occur early in the opioid prescribing process.”