American Surgery Patients More Sensitive to Pain Than Non-American Patients Due to Opioid Use, Study Finds

The U.S. administers more pain treatments than any other country — yet a new study finds that Americans tend to experience higher levels of pain intensity than their non-American counterparts. Opioids are commonly used in the U.S. to treat moderate to severe pain such as that caused by surgery, but many Americans often express needing additional treatments for pain management. Opioid abuse continues to be a serious epidemic in the U.S., and was linked to over 62,000 deadly overdoses in 2017 alone.

Why Do Americans Experience Higher Levels of Pain?

opioid use

Data from the latest pain study was drawn from 14,000 international patient surveys conducted on pain tolerance. The pain levels of American patients were compared to pain levels of patients in 13 European and non-European countries. American patients who had undergone orthopedic surgery reported experiencing higher levels of pain than patients in other countries who had undergone the same procedures.

The study authors say Americans may be more sensitive to pain due to the country’s high levels of opioid use, since increased sensitivity to pain is a common side effect of chronic opioid use. Additionally, U.S. hospitals are rated for their ability to manage pain — meaning patients who report experiencing persistent pain are usually given additional opioids and pain treatments to manage pain. Many times, American surgery patients are overtreated for pain — a factor that has contributed largely to the U.S. opioid crisis.

The study’s researchers also report that cultural differences affect pain expectations from country to country, and that Americans are less willing to tolerate any level of pain due to the way hospitals advertise modern medicine and patient satisfaction. The study sheds more light on why the U.S. consumes more opioids than any other country, and why Americans are now facing a deadly opioid crisis.

Risks Associated with Opioid Abuse

Opioids are highly addictive, and can quickly lead to physical dependence and addiction within just days or a few weeks. Studies find that postoperative surgery patients are often at higher risk for painkiller addiction than other patients due to the way U.S. doctors tend to overprescribe in surgery settings. But using opioids at high doses or for more than a few days can have adverse effects, including increased sensitivity to pain.

The number of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S. topped 53,000 in 2016, and are projected to come in at more than 62,000 for 2017. Surgeons and doctors around the U.S. are starting to decrease the rate at which they prescribe opioids, and are turning to other pain treatments like acupuncture that carry a lower risk for dependence.

In addition to causing dependence and addiction, opioid abuse can result in respiratory depression, liver damage, and brain damage. Opioids can also trigger an unintentional overdose — especially when you misuse your medication or turn to illicit opioids like heroin that contain traces of highly potent drugs like fentanyl.

How to Treat Painkiller Dependence

Opioid and painkiller dependence can be safely treated at a drug detox center where you can withdraw from drugs under the care and supervision of licensed nurses and doctors. Opioid withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, insomnia, bone pain, and depression. But getting help at a drug detox center can help you avoid these symptoms, since medications like methadone and buprenorphine can reduce or eliminate discomfort caused by withdrawal.

Look for drug detox centers that offer medication-assisted treatment or a medical detox for opioid addiction, since these detox treatments can help relieve symptoms. Also, choose among drug detox centers that offer therapy so you can learn strategies for avoiding and overcoming triggers, and successfully fight back against addiction.

If you need help overcoming opioid and painkiller dependence, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) to discuss all your treatment options with an addiction counselor. We’ll help you find the nearest drug detox center ready to guide you along the path to improved health and lifelong sobriety.

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