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Deaths related to narcotic pain relievers have doubled since 1991: Study
Date:12/7/2009

ingredient in OxyContin) rose fivefold.

  • Deaths from prescription opioids in Ontario far outnumbered those from heroin.

  • Most opioid-related fatalities (54 per cent) were accidental. The manner of death was undetermined in 22 per cent of cases and deemed to be suicide in 24 per cent.

  • Most people whose deaths involved an opioid had visited a doctor and received a prescription for the drug in the month before they died.

    "These findings highlight the tremendous societal burden of opioid-related morbidity and mortality and morbidity" says the study's co-author Dr. David Juurlink, a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and a staff physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. "Patients and doctors may not fully appreciate the potential danger of these drugs, particularly when they are taken in combination with other sedating drugs or alcohol."

    Based on the study findings for Ontario, the estimated annual national incidence of opioid-related deaths in 2004 (27.2 deaths per million population) came somewhere between the incidence of death from HIV infection (12 deaths per million) and the incidence of death from sepsis, or severe infection (40 deaths per million).

    To reduce the number of deaths related to opioid prescriptions, the researchers suggest the creation of real-time electronic databases accessible to physicians and pharmacists. This would make it harder for people to obtain opioids improperly from multiple doctors or pharmacies and easier for health care providers to predict and prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions. The researchers also call for more and better education about the risks of opioid use and suggest greater restrictions on opioid prescribing.


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  • Contact: Julie Saccone
    sacconej@smh.toronto.on.ca
    416-864-5047
    St. Michael's Hospital
    Source:Eurekalert

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