Opioid Overdoses Fuel Rise in Accidental Deaths
Opioid overdoses are fueling a sharp increase in accidental deaths in the United States, according to a new report by the National Safety Council.
More comprehensive education is needed for opioid prescribers, two experts write this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). MedPageToday reports that they also call for adoption of guidelines on opioid prescribing from the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Thomas A. McLellan, Ph.D., Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, and Director, Penn Center for Substance Abuse Solutions, call on patients to become more aware and responsible for how they use, store and dispose of opioids. Their commentary accompanies a study in this week’s JAMA that finds that higher doses of opioid medication is associated with an increased risk of accidental overdose.
Dr. Volkow was also lead author on a research letter in the same issue of JAMA about the characteristics of opioid prescriptions. In 2009, she wrote, there were 79.5 million prescriptions for opioids, mostly for hydrocodone and oxycodone products.
She notes that 46 percent of prescriptions were for patients ages 40 to 59, while 11.7 percent were for patients 10 to 29. She says this is a high percentage and asks whether this is a potential problem for this age group, which is the most likely to abuse drugs and develop an addiction. She also asks whether the percentage of opioid prescriptions that were filled by patients who had recently received another opioids prescription (56 percent) hints at the need to “improve information infrastructures that could enhance the safety of prescribed opioids analgesics and minimize diversion.”