Opiates Show Little Effect At Easing Post Surgical Pain in Male Only Procedure
For many men the prospect of getting a vasectomy fills them with fear. The common reversible procedure used to prevent unwanted pregnancy has been the butt of many locker room jokes. Over time as the use of opioids to control pain has increased it has become common to prescribe these drugs in the place or ice or less addictive drugs for post surgical pain. These drugs not only create an increased chance for addiction, they are apparently not all that effective for managing pain in the case of this delicate procedure.
A recent article in U.S. News reported on a new study published in The Journal of Urology. The data suggests that taking opiate-based painkillers after a vasectomy does not improve pain control. Furthermore, taking such drugs after a vasectomy is also linked to the persistent use of such medicines in the months following surgery.
Here we have yet another instance of painkillers being ineffective in treating pain. And yet another example of painkillers being addictive.
The study included 228 men who had vasectomies performed by eight different urologists. Two urologists prescribed opiate painkillers for post-op pain. Six used non-opiate approaches to pain relief, be it nonpharmacological routes or over-the-counter pain relief (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc.).
The men who were initially prescribed opiate meds were statistically much more likely than their non-opioid prescribed counterparts to seek opioids for ongoing pain management, even months after the vasectomy operation.
Dr. David Barham and his colleagues at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu commented on the findings. “Alarmingly, 7.8% of patients in the opioid group had new persistent opioid use at 90 days compared to 1.5% in the non-opioid group.”
When men are exposed to opiate pain meds following a vasectomy, they are far more likely to go on seeking opiate meds, even long after their surgery has healed. It would, therefore, make sense for doctors and patients alike to explore other pain relief options for post-vasectomy patients, given the risks.
The CDC on Ethical and Conservative Painkiller Prescribing
Not only is it unclear if doctors even should be prescribing opiates for post-op vasectomy pain, but the strengths and durations of such prescriptions are flawed. We can see that opiate painkillers are not the most efficient means of pain relief following a vasectomy. And the added addiction risk makes prescribing such drugs pretty ridiculous.
It would be bad enough if we chalked up such medical errors to the ever-present margin for error that comes along with the “practice” nature of medicine. But the truth is, such liberal pain med prescribing is not even considered correct or standard! It’s not a margin of error; the entire approach is in error.
Another definition of “practice” could be “To perform or do habitually or usually.” We don’t want medical doctors, in their practice of medicine, to simply prescribe opiates every time because it is now the habitual thing to do.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the leading authorities on monitoring potentially risky health practices, released a straightforward publication on the need for more conservative use of pain meds. The CDC talked about how long-term pain med misuse often begins with patients who are seeking pain relief from an operation (acute pain relief). Quoting the CDC:“Long-term opioid use often begins with treatment of acute pain. When opioids are used for acute pain, clinicians should prescribe the lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids and should prescribe no greater quantity than needed for the expected duration of pain severe enough to require opioids. Three days or less will often be sufficient; more than seven days will rarely be needed.”