Higher opioid doses may cause overdose in chronic pain patients

January 19th, 2010 - 3:15 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 19 (ANI): Patients who are prescribed higher doses of opioids to relieve chronic pain are at an increased overdose risk, say researchers.

The study links risk of fatal and nonfatal opioid overdose to prescription use - strongly associating the risk with the prescribed dose.

Lead researcher Michael Von Korff at Group Health Research Institute studied nearly 10,000 patients who received multiple opioid prescriptions for common chronic pain conditions like back pain and osteoarthritis.

They found that patients who received higher opioid doses were 9 times more likely to overdose than were those receiving low doses.

Still, most of the overdoses occurred among patients receiving low to medium doses, because prescriptions at those levels were much more common.

“Some studies have indicated that fatal opioid overdoses occur most often among people abusing prescription drugs or obtaining them from non-medical sources,” said Von Korff.

“But our results suggest that many overdoses may occur among people using prescribed opioids,” he added.

Von Korff said that this research and the data reviewed cannot determine whether higher doses are a cause of overdose, but he noted that physicians should carefully evaluate and closely monitor patients using opioids long-term.

Although suicide attempts and drug abuse were noted in only a minority of the overdoses in this study, opioid overdoses appeared to occur more often among patients with a history of depression or substance abuse, Dr. Dunn said.

Depression tends to be common among chronic pain patients using opioids long-term.

The study appears in Annals of Internal Medicine. (ANI)

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