Nearly a week after another study found that the risk of overdosing on opioids increases with higher doses of these powerful painkillers, a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine states that the risk of older adults suffering a bone fracture rises with moderately high doses of these drugs.
After examining approximately 2,341 adults aged 60 or older and suffering from non-cancer chronic pain, the study reported that the risk of bone fracture was higher in patients using opioids compared to patients not using these drugs.
Based on the study’s findings, the annual fracture rate was 10% for patients who used moderate opioid doses of at least 50 milligrams per day in comparison to 6% for current opioid users and slightly less than 4% for patients who were not using opioids, a potent class of analgesic drugs.
While opioids like oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet, Percodan), hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) have shown to provide effective, short-term relief of back pain, arthritis and other chronic conditions, the long-term effects of these narcotics are less known.
Adding to the debate about opioid use, these potentially addictive drugs have been associated with overdoses, making some doctors leery about prescribing them to patients with chronic pain.
In the new study of more than 2,300 patients, opioids were prescribed for at least 90 days to treat chronic back pain, osteoarthritis or pain in the extremities. According to the study’s findings, 37% of the opioid-using patients who suffered fractures were hospitalized while nearly 25% of the fracture victims were sent to a nursing home within a month of their accidents.
In its conclusion, the study noted the importance of doctors considering such fracture risks when prescribing opioids to older adults, who should inform their primary care providers about feeling overly sedated or nauseous after using opioids and also be forthright about any incidents of falling down.
For chronic pain sufferers who may think that the benefits of opioids do not outweigh the risks, they may speak to their doctor about other pain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscles relaxants or oral steroids when seeking pain relief.