The rising epidemic in opioid painkiller dependency


There is reportedly a rising epidemic in opioid painkiller dependency for women who need C–sections for giving birth.

Though caesarean sections are only carried out when it’s considered to be the safest option for both mother and baby, around one in every four/five women in the U.K. have a caesarean. Recovering from a caesarean usually takes longer than a vaginal birth which is why painkillers are frequently prescribed; but according to Health Day, opioid painkillers are being over-prescribed.

Opioid misuse

I’m sure there are many associated benefits with taking painkillers after a caesarean, but three studies suggest that women are being prescribed more opioids than necessary.

Researchers suggest that it creates a high risk of misuse of the painkiller.

This also may have an impact on the effectiveness of the medicine if it’s overly used, although there isn’t any substantive evidence to show this at present.

U.K. and U.S. comparison

In comparison to the U.K., caesareans are the most common inpatient surgery in the U.S. According to researchers, 1.3 million procedures are performed on an annual basis.

There’s currently not enough evidence and research to show whether or not patients actually need the painkiller to manage the pain. This is then prescribed on a case-by-case basis, and how many painkillers being prescribed depends on the provider.

As a result of over-prescription of the painkiller, many patients find they have an abundance in supply of the medication. The study shows that, for many individuals who use opioid for recreational or non-medical use, a great deal of them are supplied by their family and friends who have left-over prescriptions. Healthcare providers may need to take greater care when prescribing patients with the painkiller, which should include making thorough assessments of the patients – which should give an indication of how much pain relief is required.

Due diligence required

Dr. Sarah Osmundson, who led one of the three studies, notes the need for due diligence that healthcare providers must undertake:

“…we are the source of these excess opioids, and we need to do more to restrain that, but we really need to tailor that so the individual gets what they need. Our take-home point is we don’t want one-size-fits-all prescribing.”

As briefly mentioned above, addiction to prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet) and hydrocodone (Vicoprofen) is reportedly becoming an ‘epidemic’ in the U.S. The same epidemic may also be an issue for the U.K. too, as prescriptions for powerful opioid painkillers have reportedly doubled from 12 million to 24 million between 2006 and 2016, NHS Digital figures reveal.

Concerns for the increasing reliance on opioids

The Faculty of Pain Medicine and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (FPMRPS) expressed their concerns about the growing reliance on opioid painkillers such as codeine and tramadol. Dr. Barry Miller, Dean of the FPMRPS, understood the effectiveness of the painkiller but raised the issue of over prescription, saying:

“…while some of the increase can be attributed to an improved understanding of the effectiveness of these medications by medical professionals, we are concerned by reports of unnecessary prescription.”

Dr. Miller reiterates and reinforces the message that Dr. Osmundson is trying to convey. He states that athough “these medications can improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of patients in the U.K. living with complex pain… all NHS staff prescribing these medications need to ensure they are not doing more harm than good.”

Many doctors have warned that the number of patients in Britain who may be addicted and dependent of the substance could amount to 192,000 as a result of healthcare providers prescribing them too easily.

Since 1999, overdoses of opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone in the U.S. have quadrupled. During this period, the number of prescription for the painkiller has rose from 76 million to 219 million between 1991 and 2011, which could show the trend that it’s dangerously setting.

The content of this post/page was considered accurate at the time of the original posting and/or at the time of any posted revision. The content of this page may, therefore, be out of date. The information contained within this page does not constitute legal advice. Any reliance you place on the information contained within this page is done so at your own risk.

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