A new study has found that long-term opioid use after surgery may also be a significant problem for teenagers in the U.S. 

Researchers analyzed a total of 88,637 privately insured patients aged 13–21 (average age 17.1±2.4 years). The patients underwent 1 of 13 common surgeries and prior to surgery were all opioid-naïve. A random 3% sample of matching patients with no procedural codes or opioid prescriptions were used as a control.

Results showed that the incidence of new persistent opioid use, defined as continued opioid prescription fills between 90 and 180 days after the index surgical procedure, was 4.8% in the surgery group compared to 0.1% in the non-procedure control group. 

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New persistent opioid use ranged between 2.7% to 15.2% across procedures, with a higher risk of new persistent opioid use associated with cholecystectomy (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.191; 95% CI, 1.062–1.335) and colectomy (aOR, 2.753; 95% CI, 1.222–6.203). Female gender (aOR, 1.241; 95% CI, 1.160–1.329), older age (aOR, 1.068; 95% CI, 1.054–1.082), and higher comorbidity score (aOR, 1.015; 95% CI, 1.007–1.022) were all independently linked with new persistent opioid use.

“The study is an important step toward recognizing that the opioid epidemic is affecting adolescents and young adults in a major way,” said Calista Harbaugh, MD, lead abstract author. “We need to make sure that we treat pain after surgery, but it must be balanced with the risk of providing more opioid than necessary to patients and their communities.”

Findings from this study will be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2017 National Conference and Exhibition.

For more information visit AAP.org.