You can become physically dependent on opioids in as few as 5 days*.
There's very little risk of becoming addicted to opioids when they're delivered by an anesthesiologist for pain relief during surgery, such as a c-section. But you do have to be careful if you're given a prescription for opioid pills, such as Vicodin or Percocet, for pain relief after giving birth, having a surgery, or post-injury.
Take the pills exactly as prescribed and stop taking them as soon as you no longer need them for pain relief. Most people can switch to prescription ibuprofen or over-the-counter pain relievers three to six days after surgery.
You're more likely to become addicted to opioids if you have any of the following risk factors:
- An addiction to alcohol, tobacco, or another drug. If you're currently struggling with addiction or have in the past, you're more likely to get addicted to opioids.
- Family history of addiction. Studies show that genetic factors – having a family member with a substance use disorder – accounts for about half of your risk of becoming addicted to drugs.
- Starting young. People who start using drugs before age 25 are more likely to have addiction problems because drugs can damage the developing brain. The younger you are when you start, the more susceptible you are to addiction.
- Mental illness. People with anxiety, depression, or other mental disorders are more likely than others to become addicted while attempting to manage their emotional pain with opioids.
- Continued access to drugs. Having someone in your household who uses or misuses opioids increases your risk of abusing them yourself.
- Chronic pain. People who suffer from chronic pain, like back pain or migraines, are more likely to become addicted to painkillers.
- Adverse child experiences. Traumatic childhood experiences, such as neglect and sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, make you more likely to abuse drugs as an adult.
The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk. If you're worried about dependence or addiction, let your provider know so you can work together to protect your health.
Approved by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine
ACOG. 2017a. Medications for pain relief during labor and delivery. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Medications-for-Pain-Relief-During-Labor-and-Delivery [Accessed April 2018]
ACOG. 2017b. Opioid use and opioid use disorder in pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Bateman BT et al. 2017. Patterns of opioid prescription and use after cesarean delivery. Obstetrics and Gynecology 130(1):29-35. https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2017/07000/Patterns_of_Opioid_Prescription_and_Use_After.5.aspx [Accessed April 2018]
Bateman BT et al. 2016. Persistent opioid use following cesarean delivery: Patterns and predictors among opioid-naïve women. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 215(3):353.e1-353.e18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26996986 [Accessed April 2018]
CTIPP. 2017. Policy brief on aces and opioid addiction. Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy and Practice. https://ctipp.org/News-And-Resources/ArticleID/13/Policy-Brief-on-ACEs-and-Opioid-Addiction [Accessed April 2018]
Osmundson SS et al. 2017. Post-discharge opioid use after cesarean delivery. Obstetrics and Gynecology 130(1):36-41. https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2017/07000/Postdischarge_Opioid_Use_After_Cesarean_Delivery.6.aspx [Accessed April 2018]
Prabhu Malavika et al. 2017. A shared decision-making intervention to guide opioid prescribing after cesarean delivery. Obstetrics and Gynecology 130(1):42-46. https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2017/07000/A_Shared_Decision_Making_Intervention_to_Guide.7.aspx [Accessed April 2018]
SAMHSA. 2016. Preventing prescription drug misuse: Understanding who is at risk. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/sites/default/files/resources/preventing-prescription-drug-misuse-understanding.pdf [Accessed April 2018]