They are often used to treat pain, but now, Dr. Bob Zura from LSU Health New Orleans says it looks like opioids may very well be contributing to an elevated risk of bone fractures.

“Clearly, the opioid epidemic is affecting all parts of our society. We found that opioids within themselves are perhaps even a risk factor for developing a fracture.”

The study also shows that chronic use of opioids may also contribute to the risk of fractures, but it may also hinder the ability to heal fractures.

“We defined chronic use as taking opioids for greater than thirty days prior to an injury. We found that those patients, because of their opioid use, were independently at risk for not healing their bones.”

But it’s not just the heaviest users that are at risk says Dr. Zura.

“We also found that acute use was associated with some risk. We are a little bit more cautious about those conclusions because many patients do get them and may patients do heal.”

Dr. Zura says the use of opioids may not be the best choice for treating pain going forward.