Many studies have examined addicts, but few have been able to capture the progression into addiction, something that a new study being conducted at the Mayo Clinic attempts to change.
The study is examining how people become addicted to opiates, by looking at a group of patients who were prescribed opiates in 2009. The patients were being treated for acute pain – such as surgery recovery or sprained ankles – so their doctors did not expect them to become long-term users.
However, the study found that a quarter of them were still using opiates 90 days later. Of that group, another quarter became long-term users, who used the pills for 120 days, or 10 different prescriptions.
That group of long-term users is of the most interest to researchers, because people who use opiates for 120 days are most likely to become addicted.
“If you went back and found the people who were long-term users then, I can guarantee you that many of them became addicted,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an expert in opioid addiction who was not involved in the study, told the Huffington Post. “And I would not be surprised if some of them wound up dying of opioid overdoses.”
The study also found that people who have other types of addiction – including smoking – were more likely to use the pills for 90 days or more. The results illustrated the importance of exercising caution when prescribing opiates, especially to patients with a history of substance abuse, said study author Dr. Michael Hooten.
“Before you provide an opioid prescription to a patient, it's important to recognize that if they have a tendency to abuse substances, you should have a heightened sense of vigilance,” Hooten said.