Navigation Links
Overdoses From Prescription Painkillers on the Rise

Use of opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone soaring, researchers say

TUESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Overdoses from prescription painkillers are increasing in the United States, a new study shows.

Researchers examined pharmacy files on 9,940 adults who took opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone for at least three months between 1997 and 2005. The patients, who were insured and members of the Group Health Cooperative in Washington, were prescribed the drugs for chronic pain due to non-cancer causes, including conditions of the back or neck, headaches, jaw pain, pain in the extremities, arthritis and menstrual pain or injuries.

Fifty-one patients overdosed on the drugs; six of the overdoses were fatal, the researchers found.

The risk of overdosing increased with the amount of drug prescribed, according to the study. Those given higher doses had nearly nine times the chance of overdosing as those given lower doses of opioids.

"The rate of overdose was strongly related to dose," said senior study author Michael Von Korff, a senior investigator at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. "For patients currently receiving higher-dose regimens, their rate of overdose was almost 2 percent per year, which is a lot."

Patients who were depressed, had a history of substance abuse or who were also taking sedative-hypnotics, such as sleeping pills, had a higher risk of overdosing.

The study is published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

One reason for the greater reliance on opioids is a recognition among physicians that chronic pain is a serious problem, hindering people from working, sleeping and enjoying their lives, Von Korff said.

Use of the drugs also increased after two prominent pain management societies said that pain had been under-medicated because of fears of addiction, said A. Thomas McLellan, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who co-authored an editorial accompanying the study.

"That may have been a correct conclusion but, oh baby, did that lead to a dramatic change in practice," McLellan said. "Opioids are now among the most available and the most prescribed class of drugs."

Today, about 3 percent of the U.S. population are long-term users of opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and methadone, according to background information in the article. "Our research suggests the rate of use doubled between 1997 and 2005, and probably doubled in the eight or nine years prior to that," Von Korff said.

The greater availability of the drugs has led to an increase in abuse, McLellan noted. Opioids are frequently "diverted," meaning one person gets the prescription and then gives it or sells it to another. A recent study found that less than half of those who died due to accidental overdose had actually received the drugs from a physician.

Yet less was known about the risk of overdosing in patients receiving the drugs from their physicians for pain, Von Korff said.

Among patients in the study, the cause of the overdoses varied. Medical records showed eight people accidentally took too much. Six were suicide attempts, while three had also obtained additional opioids from non-medical sources.

But in most cases, the reason for the overdose was unclear, including whether patients were taking the medications as intended when they overdosed, or if they had accidentally -- or intentionally -- taken more than was prescribed.

Symptoms of people who overdosed were delirium, loss of consciousness, confusion, respiratory problems and falling.

Because of the risks, physicians should closely monitor patients who are on long-term opioid therapy, prescribe as low a dose as possible to control pain and frequently re-evaluate whether the benefit of the drug is worth the risk.

"We need to consider what can be done to maintain the medical benefits of prescribed opiates -- you don't want to reduce appropriate availability -- while recognizing there are public health side effects," McLellan said.

Patient education and patient contracts, in which patients pledge to not share the drugs with others and to only use as necessary, have been shown to help, McLellan said.

"Patients must assume more responsibility for the storage and proper use of these medications, and doctors and dentists must recognize there are public health as well as individual patient implications," McLellan added.

More information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has more on opioids.

SOURCES: Michael Von Korff, Sc.D., senior investigator, Group Health Research Institute, Seattle; A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D., deputy director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Washington, D.C.; Jan. 19, 2010, Annals of Internal Medicine

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. FDA Initiative Seeks to Reduce Accidental Overdoses
2. Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD Announces: Vets Sudden Cardiac Deaths Are Not Suicides or Overdoses
3. Joint Commission Alert: Prevent Blood Thinner Deaths and Overdoses
4. Accidental Overdoses in the Home Soaring
5. Kansas Doctor Charged in Deadly Prescription Drug Overdoses
6. U.S. Department of Justice Alleges Johnson & Johnson Paid Kickbacks to Steer Nursing Home Prescriptions: Joins Chicago Pharmacist's Whistleblower Case
7. Prescription Drug Coupons Offer Best Savings on Prescription Drugs
8. In U.S., Prescription Drug Abuse Is Growing
9. 5,000 Web Sites Selling Prescription Drugs Outside of Pharmacy Laws and Practice Standards
10. Prescription Audio Gives the Gift of Stress Relief This Holiday Season
11. AARP Disappointed By Senate Vote Against Lower Prescription Drug Prices
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... , ... Brent Kasmer, a legally blind and certified personal trainer is helping to develop a ... fitness app plans to fix the two major problems leading the fitness industry today:, ... type program , They don’t eliminate all the reasons people quit their exercise ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Austin residents seeking Mohs surgery services, can now turn to ... Dr. Russell Peckham for medical and surgical dermatology. , Dr. Dorsey brings specialization to ... fellowship in Mohs Micrographic Surgery completed by Dr. Dorsey was under the direction of ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... First Choice Emergency Room , the ... Ogunleye, as the Medical Director of its new Mesquite-Samuell Farm facility. , “We ... new Mesquite location,” said Dr. James M. Muzzarelli, Executive Medical Director of First Choice ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... ... On Friday, June 10, Van Mitchell, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and ... their exemplary accomplishments in worksite health promotion. , The Wellness at Work Awards took ... the BWI Marriott in Linthicum Heights. iHire was one of 42 businesses to receive ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... Those who have experienced traumatic events may suffer ... unhealthy avenues, such as drug or alcohol abuse, as a coping mechanism. To avoid ... healthy coping following a traumatic event. , Trauma sufferers tend to feel a range ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 , ... on Thursday, July 7, 2016 , , , , LOCATION: ... , , , , EXPERT PANELISTS:  , , , ... Senior Industry Analyst, Christi Bird; Senior Industry Analyst, Divyaa Ravishankar and ... The global pharmaceutical industry is witnessing an exceptional era. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... BOGOTA, Colombia , June 23, 2016  Astellas today announced the establishment of Astellas Farma Colombia ... the company,s second affiliate in Latin America . ... ... Farma Colombia ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016  Guerbet announced today ... Inc.,s Supplier Horizon Award . One ... Guerbet was recognized for its support of Premier members ... through clinical excellence, and commitment to lower costs. ... receive this recognition of our outstanding customer service from ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: