Opioid Painkiller Addition

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This was the first time I experienced the power of opioids first hand) It was November 2014 when my family and I drove back to Sky Ridge Hospital to pick up my younger sister from her surgery. Earlier that day, we dropped her off to have all four of her wisdom teeth removed, an operation that nearly 5 million patients undergo each year. After discussing how the procedure went, the surgeon explained that my sister would be in a fair amount of pain for the first few days, but should fine in about a weeks time. In order to cope with the pain, the surgeon strongly pushed a prescription for 45 Hydrocodone (an opioid painkiller), rather than trying Advil or Tylenol first. On top of that, he suggested that my sister begin taking them immediately to get ahead of the pain. For the first few days after having her wisdom teeth removed, my sister followed the surgeon’s instructions and took the recommended dosage of Hydrocodone. While the opioids surely helped to relieve the pain she was experiencing, the negative side effects began to show very quickly. Per instructions from the surgeon as well as on the bottle, you are intended to take the Hydrocodone every 4-6 hours. However, within the first week, my sister had already started to become extremely reliant on the painkillers. Rather than taking the opioid every 4-6 hours as instructed, she would pressure my mother and try to convince her that she needed to take more on a two hour basis. This behavior immediately set off a red flag for my mother. In order to prevent any chance of addiction and long-term impact, she forced my sister to turn to less addictive methods such as Tylenol and Advil, or simply ice.

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A few months after my sister had her wisdom teeth removed, my dentist informed me that I need all four of my wisdom teeth removed as well. After seeing the impact that the Hydrocodone had on my sister, I was very concerned that if I chose to fill the opioid prescription, I would end up being heavily reliant on the pills. Once my surgery was complete, the surgeon once again strongly pushed the opioid prescription. Seeing how the Hydrocodone affected my sister and knowing the addictive aspect of opioids, my family and I began to question the doctor to see if the opioids were truly necessary. He went on to explain that the Hydrocodone was definitely necessary, and would actually benefit me because of how difficult it was to extract my wisdom teeth. Despite the surgeon’s recommendation, I chose to pursue non-opioid options. I took a reasonable amount of Advil to relieve the pain as well as popsicles and ice cream to reduce the swelling. Even with these simple techniques, I was able to manage the pain effectively, and I was even back on the baseball field three days after the operation.

With the opioid crisis constantly in the news, parents are left with tough decisions. Should you fill the opioid prescription given by your doctor, and should you allow your kid to take the addictive painkillers? After receiving an operation like having your wisdom teeth removed, the main concern for many parents is to make sure their kid is in as little pain as possible. However, by allowing your kid to use opioids to cure short-term pain, you are putting them into long-term risk. According to Calista Harbaugh, a National Clinician Scholar at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, “Young people ages 13 to 30 who filled an opioid prescription immediately before or after they had their wisdom teeth out were nearly 2.7 times as likely as their peers to still be filling opioid prescriptions weeks or months later.” This information should be known by parents across the country to prevent catastrophic long-term effects for their teens. In a study conducted by Harbaugh and her research team, “An astonishing 56,686 of the 70,942 patients surveyed, had gone on to refill their postoperative opioid prescription. Hydrocodone was the most common (70.3%), followed by oxycodone (24.3%).” Doctors really need to reconsider pushing opioid prescriptions on young teens if we are ever going to make in progress in reducing these numbers.

So why are so many doctors and surgeons strongly pushing opioids rathers than non-addictive pain remedies? The answer to this question resides in the fact that many of the doctors and surgeons are paid by large pharmaceutical companies. According to an exclusive analysis done by CNN and Harvard researchers, “In 2014 and 2015, opioid manufacturers paid hundreds of doctors across the country six-figure sums for speaking, consulting and other services. Thousands of other doctors were paid over $25,000 during that time” (Kessler).

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Opioid Painkiller Addition. (2022, Apr 13). Retrieved December 7, 2022 , from
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