The risk of overdosing on opioids increases with higher dosages, according to a study that highlights the growing concern about prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
Also known as narcotics, opioids like oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan), hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) are potent analgesic drugs that can effectively treat back pain, arthritis and other chronic conditions in the short-term.
However, some doctors hesitate to prescribe opioids since these drugs can be potentially addicting, used beyond their indications and linked to overdoses, as detailed in the new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In this study, researchers examined the pharmacy files of 9,940 patients who were prescribed 3 or more opioids within 90 days for chronic pain between 1997 and 2005. Approximately 51 opioid-related overdoses were identified, with 6 of these overdoses resulting in death.
According to the study’s findings, the risk and annual rate of opioid overdoses increased with greater dosages.
For example, patients who received 100 or more milligrams of opioids per day had an 8.9-fold increase in the overdose risk and a 1.8% increase in the annual overdose rate when compared to patients who received 50 to 90 milligrams of opioids per day.
Similarly, the opioid overdose risk increased by 3.7-fold and the annual overdose rate by 0.7% for patients receiving 50 to 90 milligrams per day compared to patients receiving 1 to 20 milligrams per day.
Based on such results, the study’s researchers noted the importance of doctors supervising patients when prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
Chronic pain sufferers who are concerned about the potential dangers of opioids or other back pain medications may be interested in learning more about noninvasive, non-drug pain management that may include exercise, manual techniques, behavioral modification, cutaneous stimulation and/or electrotherapy.