A Sad Link Between Skeletal Injuries And Opiate Abuse

Opiate drugs, like heroin, morphine, codeine, and prescription drug versions (Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet) wreck havoc on the human body.

Repeated use is now linked to skeletal injuries. An article published in the June 19th issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery uses one study’s results to explain how the abuse of prescription opiates plays a major role in orthopedic trauma, isolated musculoskeletal injuries, and established pre-injury damage.

Joel E. Holman, M.D. headed the research study at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He and his team gathered a list of people who had used prescription painkillers for three months leading up to an injury and six months following an injury. With the help of the Utah Controlled Substance Database, the list came out to be 613 patients who had been admitted for an isolated musculoskeletal injury needing orthopedic trauma services.

The numbers

The study found that 15.5% (95) of the 613 patients were taking a prescription opiate, as compared to 9.2% of the whole population that is taking a doctor-prescribed painkiller. Results also showed that these patients filled painkiller prescriptions pre-injury more often than the general population: 12.2% versus 6.4%. This statistic adds to the link between skeletal injuries and opiate abuse.

Other noteworthy findings are important to the study as well. 68.4% of the patients filled prescriptions for opiates for less than six weeks following surgery. 11.9% of the patients filled prescriptions for six to twelve weeks after surgery, and 19.7% took opiates for longer than twelve weeks after having surgery.

The Conclusion

The research team sums up the findings by saying: “Patients with orthopedic trauma are significantly more likely than the general population to use prescription opiates prior to injury. Pre-injury opiate use is predictive of prolonged use post-injury and predictive of patients who will seek opiates from other providers."

Is the use of opiates creating weakened bones and joints to the point that injuries are occurring more because of opiate abuse? Are opiate addicts much more susceptible to skeletal injuries than non-opiate users?  

More research needed, but the links do exist

It seems more research is needed to make the direct correlation, but opiate abuse does have links to skeletal issues. Malnutrition associated with drug use deteriorates bone mass that can lead to osteoporosis and arthritis. When bones and joints are losing strength, an injury that may not cause extreme damage under other circumstances, are causing debilitating damage to those abusing prescription opiates.

The potential for injury, and other terrible life consequences, are great reasons to seek help for yourself or a loved one who is addicted to any opiate. Drug addict recovery meetings are a great start. Narcotics Anonymous and other 12 Step meetings are a regular part of most opiate rehab programs. In a group of people with similar experiences, recovering opiate addicts can provide mutual support and understanding that is paramount for sustained sobriety.

Look into drug addict recovery meetings in your area, and rehab programs that include the 12 Steps, to avoid the sad link between skeletal injuries and opiate abuse, among other major problems. People change their lives all the time. Opiate addiction can be a thing of the past.