The longer a person uses opioids, the greater the risk of forming a deadly addiction. But just how long does it take to switch from being a short-term user—say, while you’re dealing with pain after a surgery—to a long-term, potentially problematic user? A few weeks? A month?
According to a new study, that transition could take just a matter of days.
When patients get an initial opioid prescription that’s just a one-day supply, they have about a six-percent chance of being on opioids for a year or longer. But if that first prescription is for a three-day supply, the probability of long-term use starts inching up. With an initial five-day supply, the chance jumps to about 10 percent. With a six-day supply, the chance hits 12 percent. With 10-day’s worth, the odds of still being on opioids a year later hits roughly 20 percent.
So, with an initial 10-day opioid prescription, about one-in-five patients become long-term users. That’s according to the new study’s lead author Bradley Martin, a professor of pharmaceutical evaluation and policy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science. It’s a fast rise, Martin said to Ars. “We really didn’t expect that.”
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