Doctors Prescribing Opioids to COVID ‘Long Haulers’

Wednesday April 28, 2021 (Kaiser News) – Covid survivors are at risk of a possible second pandemic, this time of opioid addiction, given the high rate of pain relievers prescribed to these patients, according to health experts.

A new study in Nature has found alarming rates of opioid use among covid survivors with persistent symptoms in Veterans Health Administration facilities. About 10% of covid survivors develop a “long covid”, struggling with health problems that are often debilitating, even six months or more after a diagnosis.

For every 1,000 long-term patients, known as “long-haul” patients, treated at a Department of Veterans Affairs facility, doctors wrote nine more opioid prescriptions than they otherwise would have. as well as 22 additional prescriptions for benzodiazepines, including Xanax and other addictive pills used to treat anxiety.

Although previous studies have found that many covid survivors suffer from persistent health problems, the new article is the first to show that they use more addictive drugs, said Dr Ziyad Al-Aly, lead author of the ‘article.

He fears that even a seemingly small increase in the inappropriate use of addictive pain relievers will lead to a resurgence of the prescription opioid crisis, given the large number of covid survivors. More than 3 million of the 31 million Americans infected with covid develop long-term symptoms, which can include fatigue, shortness of breath, depression, anxiety, and memory problems known as “brain fog.” “.

The new study also found that many patients suffered from severe muscle and bone pain.

The frequent use of opioids was surprising, given concerns about their potential for addiction, said Al-Aly, chief of research and education at the VA St. Louis Health Care System.

“Doctors are now supposed to avoid prescribing opioids,” said Al-Aly, who has studied more than 73,000 patients in the VA system. When Al-Aly saw the number of opioid prescriptions he said, he thought to himself, “Is this really happening again?”

Doctors must act now, before “it is too late to do something,” Al-Aly said. “We need to act now and make sure people get the care they need. We don’t want this to turn into a suicide crisis or another opioid epidemic. “

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Jothi Venkat

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