Can treatment during surgery reduce postoperative opioid use?

Science Spotlight

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With the current concerns related to opioid addiction and overdose, researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) are exploring ways to reduce the use of opioids for pain relief, while still effectively managing pain. In a randomized clinical trial, 422 patients undergoing a variety of operations were given the medicine gabapentin during and after surgery, while other patients were given placebos. Gabapentin is an anti-epileptic medication (an anticonvulsant) and is also used in adults to treat certain kinds of nerve pain.

After surgery, researchers then noted the patient’s use of opioids. They measured not only their need for opioids to manage postsurgical pain, but also how quickly these patients were ready to stop using opioids. The study showed that 72 hours of perioperative gabapentin did not eliminate postsurgical pain more quickly, but it did significantly reduce the duration of opioid use. These findings suggest that gabapentin may be a valuable adjuvant to prevent the development of postoperative chronic opioid use.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Stanford Department of Anesthesiology.

For a copy of the study, go to "Effect of Perioperative Gabapentin on Postoperative Pain Resolution and Opioid Cessation in a Mixed Surgical Cohort: A Randomized Clinical Trial," published in the JAMA Surgery.

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About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. For more information about NIDA and its programs, visit

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