Most People Who Overdose Can Still Get Painkiller Prescriptions

The overwhelming majority of people who overdose on prescription opioids are still able to get prescriptions for those painkillers, according to a report published in the _Annals of Internal Medicine. _

Researchers at Boston Medical Center used Optum, a national commercial insurance claims database to identify almost 3,000 patients who experienced a nonfatal overdoses between 2000 and 2012. The patients were taking long-term opioids prescribed for chronic pain not related to cancer. Opioids include drugs like codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and tramadol.

More than 90 percent of these patients continued to receive prescription opioids after their overdose. More than half got the prescription from the same doctor. There were 212 second overdoses, 7 percent of the original group.

Two years after the first overdose, those who still had a prescription for the drugs were twice as likely to have had a second overdose than those whose prescriptions were stopped. Repeated overdose risk was highest for patients receiving the highest dosages of the drugs.

The explanation?  According to the researchers, those prescribing the drugs are generally unaware of these overdoses. As Dr. Jessica Gregg of Central City Concern in Portland, Oregon puts it, “Patients who have misused their prescriptions are unlikely to report that misuse (and their subsequent overdose) to their prescriber out of concern that the provider will terminate their prescriptions.”

Don't miss this week's Slice of History--the first "drunkometer."

Sourced from: Reuters Health, Many continue to receive opioid prescriptions after overdose