60% of Overdose Deaths Linked to Chronic Pain
In a new study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) examined data from over 13,000 overdose deaths. The study is the first to determine the proportion of those who died of an opioid overdose with chronic pain.
The research found that during the last year of life, more than half of these individuals had been diagnosed with chronic pain. Many had also been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. “The frequent occurrence of treated chronic pain and mental health conditions among overdose decedents underscores the importance of offering substance use treatment services in clinics that treat patients with chronic pain and mental health problems. Such a strategy might increase early clinical intervention in patients who are at high risk for fatal opioid overdose,” said Mark Olfson, MD, professor of psychiatry at CUMC and lead investigator of the study.
Prior to overdosing, more than half the victims had filled prescriptions for opioids or benzodiazepines, and many had filled prescriptions for both types of medications. “This medication combination is known to increase the risk of respiratory depression, which is the unusually slow and shallow breathing that is the primary cause of death in most fatal opioid overdoses,” said Dr. Olfson.
The authors of the study urged medical professionals to carefully monitor prescriptions to patients who taking both painkillers and benzodiazepines.
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