Study Highlights Risk of Combining Opioid Painkillers with Other Medications

A new study finds one-fourth of people who take prescription opioid painkillers for long periods are at risk of an overdose from unsafe combinations of prescription medication.

Researchers analyzed all prescriptions of controlled substances for almost 302,000 patients in Idaho in 2017. One-third of patients prescribed an opioid had taken the drug for more than 90 days without a break of at least a week. Almost one-fourth of people using prescription opioids for long periods were also prescribed a benzodiazepine or other central nervous system depressant, HealthDay reports. This combination puts patients at risk of an overdose.

The study found 44 percent of these overlapping prescriptions were written by more than one prescriber. The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists.

“Patients with chronic pain are often under the care of several different physicians to manage their different disease states,” researcher Catherine Oliphant, a professor of pharmacy practice at Idaho State, said in a news release. “This co-management can lead to patients receiving unintentional prescription combinations that put them at higher risk for an opioid overdose.”

Heroin & the Opioid Epidemic: From Understanding to Action

Heroin and other opioids are ravaging communities across America. Heroin-related deaths increased by more than five times between 2010 and 2017, and drug deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are seeing a sharp rise as well.

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