Prescribed Opioids: Overdoses Not Uncommon
Higher Doses Linked to Higher Risk, Study Finds
WebMD News Archive
7 Nonfatal Overdoses for Every Drug Death
The analysis also found that:
- Opioid overdoses occurred at similar rates across all age
- The estimated annual overdose rates were 0.2%, 0.7%, and 1.8% among
patients receiving less than 20 milligrams a day, 50 to 99 milligrams a day,
and 100 or more milligrams a day, respectively, of opioids.
Suicide attempts and drug abuse were cited as contributing to overdose in
only a minority of cases.
- More than seven nonfatal overdoses occurred for every fatal overdose among
the study participants.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
“Most of the attention has been on fatal overdoses because that is the data
we have had,” senior investigator Michael Von Korff, ScD, of the Group Health
Research Institute, tells WebMD. “But this study makes it clear that serious
non-fatal overdoses are not uncommon among these patients.”
The message to physicians who prescribe drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, and
methadone for chronic pain is clear, Von Korff says.
“If a patient is using opioids long term, these drugs should be prescribed
by a single physician who is aware of all the drugs the patient is taking,” he
The message to patients is that they should never take more of a
prescription opioid for pain than is prescribed.
“The recent (opioid-related) mortality data from CDC has been sobering,” he
says. “This study confirms that we need to be concerned about the full spectrum
of patients taking these drugs and not just those struggling with substance