People with chronic wounds who are prescribed opioids to treat their pain may experience slower healing than those who don’t receive the drugs, according to new research.

Study results from researchers at George Washington University came amid a national debate over the pros and cons of prescribing opioids for seniors, and ongoing efforts to curb opioid abuse in the United States.

Previous research has been split on whether prescribing opioids to patients with chronic wounds can help or hinder healing. At the same time, healing may be negatively impacted in patients who aren’t treated with opioids, since pain can interfere with healing and proper wound care, the researchers noted.  

The research team studied 450 patients with wounds. The wound surface area, pain score and opioid exposure were measured for each patient. 

Results showed that patients who received doses of opioids over 10 mg per day had slower wound healing rates, and reduced likelihood of healing, than patients receiving less than 10 mg of opioids or none at all.

The findings were published online in February in Wound Repair and Regeneration