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Sustained opioid use not tied to traumatic injury

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Only 1.1 % of trauma patients are reportedly taking highly addictive opiates one year after suffering an injury that caused them to need powerful pain medications, according to a new study presented at the 2016 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons. 

The study also found that three out of four patients who sustain a major trauma stop taking opiates one month after the hospital sends them home—a finding one researcher called “surprising” in a statement issued Wednesday by the Chicago-based American College of Surgeons. 

“It appears that traumatic injury is not a main driver for continued opioid use in patients who were not taking opioids prior to their injuries," said senior investigator Dr. Andrew Schoenfeld in the statement.
 
The research was conducted using U.S. Department of Defense health care system data accessed from 2007 to 2013 through Tricare, which insures active-duty and reserve military, retired veterans and their dependents. Dr. Schoenfeld, a Boston-based orthopedic surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard University Medical School, said the findings are generalizable to the U.S. population because most Tricare plan members studied are currently civilians. 

The study included 15,369 patients between the ages of 18 and 64 whose injuries were classified as severe.

This is one of the largest investigations of prescription opiate use among patients who sustained trauma, Dr. Schoenfeld said. The findings debunk the “popular narrative about the role that appropriate use of opioids may play in the rate of opioid abuse,” he said. 

According to the press statement, the investigators identified several risk factors for prolonged opiate use after trauma: age, marital and socioeconomic status, and length of hospital stay.