Substance Addiction and the Hand Surgery Patient: A Comprehensive Review

Matthew R. Zeiderman, Clifford T. Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Substance abuse is pervasive in the American society, with 10% of the United States population using marijuana, up to 17% of patients undergoing upper-extremity surgery reporting chronic opioid use, and up to 20% of acute hand infections occurring secondary to intravenous drug use. It is common, therefore, for a hand surgeon to take care of a patient under the influence of nonprescription drugs. The range of abused substances is diverse, and the implications are profound. As such, it is important for hand surgeons to understand the potential implications of drug use to best guide patient care and surgical decision-making. The abuse of opioids, amphetamines, marijuana, and other substances has an impact on treatment timing, adherence to postoperative hand therapy, and/or clinic follow ups. The physiologic effects of these drugs affect surgical risk, wound healing, and bone healing. Social factors associated with drug abuse can complicate the management of these patients. Collectively, all these factors substantially affect surgical outcomes. In this review, we provide an overview of commonly abused illicit and prescription drugs seen in hand surgery practice, tips to identify substance abuse, the drugs’ implications for surgical risks, outcomes, and some recommendations for management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)790-799
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Drug use
  • drugs
  • hand
  • hand surgery
  • review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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