Women who give birth by cesarean section, or C-section, might go home from the hospital with far too many opioid painkillers, according to three studies published online this week in the journal Obstetrics Gynecology.
Researchers say study subjects who were prescribed larger numbers of opioid pills were also more apt to use more of them—thus heightening their risk of addiction.
What’s also worrisome is that 95 percent of the survey subjects who had leftover pills held onto them. And a second study published in Obstetrics Gynecology this week detected a similar pattern: When researchers from Vanderbilt University looked at opioid use in 179 women after a C-section, they found that three-fourths of those who filled their prescriptions had leftover pills and that the vast majority held on to them. Sixty-three percent stored them in an unlocked location.
Keeping opioids around the house increases the chance that they could be ingested by someone they’re not prescribed for, or accidentally ingested by children. “This is leading to excess pills in the community, which are subject to misuse,” says IHPI member Chad Brummett, M.D., director of pain research at the University of Michigan Medical School.