Sadly, the answer is not long – and a much shorter time than most people would expect. According to a recent study, the transition from being a short-term user to a long-term, potentially problematic user can be as short as a few days.
In a large scale study that included medical records for over 1 million patients, startling statistics emerge:
- For patients prescribed at least 1 day of opioids, there was a 6% probability of continued use at 1 year and 2.9% at 3 years
- For patients whose initial prescription was for ≥8 days, the probability of continued use at 1 year rose to 13.5%.
- For patients whose initial prescription was for ≥31 days, the probability of continued use at 1 year rose to 29.9%.
- Approximately 7.3% of the patients were initially prescribed opioids for more than 31 days.
- Approximately 1 in 7 (14%) persons who received a refill or had a second opioid prescription authorized were on opioids 1 year later
The greatest increases in probability for continued usage were seen:
- When the initial prescription exceeded 10 or 30 days
- When a patient was given a 3rd prescription
- When the cumulative dose was ≥700 morphine milligram equivalents
The transition from acute to long-term medication usage can occur very quickly. Risks of becoming a chronic user literally increase with each day a patient is on the medication. If medication is necessary, it should be closely monitored, reduced and then discontinued as quickly as is possible. Non-drug options such as chiropractic are a much safer alternative! See your local chiropractor to see how your back pain can be treated naturally and with very low risk.
SOURCE: Shah A, Hayes CJ, Martin BC. Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid Use — United States, 2006–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:265–269. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6610a1.