More and more Americans with chronic pain not caused by cancer are taking medically prescribed opioids like Oxycontin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone).
The January 19 Annals of Internal Medicine features the first study to explore the risk of overdose in patients prescribed opioids for chronic noncancer pain in general health care. The study links risk of fatal and nonfatal opioid overdose to prescription use—strongly associating the risk with the prescribed dose.
A team led by Michael Von Korff, ScD, a senior investigator 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. 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.
More than 8 million U.S. adults—3 percent of all of them—are estimated to be using opioids long-term for chronic pain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that nearly 14,000 U.S. deaths involved prescription opioids in 2006, more than triple the number in 1999. Between 1999 and 2006, nearly 65,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States were reported to involve opioid analgesics.
"Some studies have indicated that fatal opioid overdoses occur most often among people abusing prescription drugs or obtaining them from non-medical sources," Dr. Von Korff said. "But our results suggest that many overdoses may occur among people using prescribed opioids."
Dr. 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.
Previous research had not tracked nonfatal overdoses. "Fatal overdose may be only the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. Von Korff. "For every fatal overdose in our study, 7 nonfatal overdoses occurred, and most of the nonfatal overdoses were medically serious."
"Our findings are concerning and need to be studied in larger populations," said the study's first author, Kate M. Dunn, PhD, senior lecturer in epidemiology at the Arthritis Research Campaign National Primary Care Centre at Keele University in the U.K.
Opioid overdose occurred at similar rates across all ages. The overdose events identified were not directly evaluated to assess all potential contributing factors, such as suicide attempts, opioids obtained from nonmedical sources, or accidental or intentional ingestion of more opioid than prescribed. 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.
"Nationwide, opioids are widely prescribed long-term for many patients with chronic non-cancer pain," said coauthor Bruce M. Psaty, MD, PhD, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute and a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and health services at the University of Washington, where he co-directs the Cardiovascular Health Research Unit. "So a significant opportunity exists to improve safety and the risk-benefit profile through more careful and cautious prescribing."
Opioids include not only opiates, which come from the opium poppy, he explained—but also similar synthesized chemicals.
A three-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the CONSORT (CONsortium to Study Opioid Risks and Trends) study. The Wellcome Trust supported Dr. Dunn's participation.
Other coauthors were Senior Investigator Carolyn M. Rutter, PhD, and Analyst/Programmer Kathleen W. Saunders, JD, of Group Health Research Institute; Caleb J. Banta-Green, MSW, MPH, PhD, Joseph O. Merrill, MD, MPH, and Mark D. Sullivan, MD, PhD, of the University of Washington; Michael J. Silverberg, PhD, MPH, and Cynthia I. Campbell, PhD, of Northern California Kaiser Permanente in Oakland; and Constance M. Weisner, DrPH, MSW, of Northern California Kaiser Permanente in Oakland and the University of California, San Francisco.
Group Health Research Institute
Founded in 1947, Group Health Cooperative is a Seattle-based, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care system. Group Health Research Institute (www.grouphealthresearch.org) changed its name from Group Health Center for Health Studies on September 8, 2009. Since 1983, the Institute has conducted nonproprietary public-interest research on preventing, diagnosing, and treating major health problems. Government and private research grants provide its main funding.
Rebecca Hughes | EurekAlert!
WAKE-UP provides new treatment option for stroke patients | International study led by UKE
17.05.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy