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Researchers ID Patients More Prone to Long-Term Opioid Use

People with a history of smoking or abusing drugs at highest risk of long-term use

TUESDAY, July 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Patients with prior histories of drug abuse, or current or former smokers, are more likely to go beyond a short-term prescription for opioids, according to research published in the July issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The study was led by W. Michael Hooten, M.D., an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. His team tracked outcomes for 293 patients given a first-time, short-term prescription for an opioid analgesic in 2009. The investigators found that nearly one in every four of the patients continued to take the medication for extended periods of time.

Specifically, the researchers found that 21 percent of short-term opioid patients end up getting prescriptions that extend for as much as three to four months. Another 6 percent actually continued the medications for longer than four months. People with a prior history of either smoking and/or drug abuse were found to be at greatest risk for conversion of a short-term prescribing pattern into an episodic or long-term prescribing pattern.

“The next step in this research is to drill down and find more detailed information about the potential role of dose and quantity of medication prescribed,” Hooten said in a Mayo news release. “It is possible that higher dose or greater quantities of the drug with each prescription are important predictors of longer-term use.”

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