9 of 10 Patients Still Get Opioid Prescriptions After Overdose

By Janice Wood
September 21st, 2022
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.
Almost All Patients Continue to Get Opioid Prescriptions After Overdose

A new study has found that more than 90 percent of patients with chronic pain continue to receive prescription opioids after an overdose.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, also noted that these patients are at a “high risk” for experiencing a repeated overdose.

For the study, researchers used Optum, a large national commercial insurance claims database with data on 50 million individuals collected over a 12-year period.

The researchers identified nearly 3,000 patients who experienced a non-fatal overdose while taking opioids prescribed for chronic pain. The data showed 91 percent of those patients continued to be prescribed opioids after the overdose.

In addition, 70 percent received prescriptions from the same provider who prescribed them opioids before their initial overdose.

At two years follow-up, patients who continued taking high dosages of opioids were twice as likely to have another overdose compared to those who discontinued opioid use after the overdose, the study found.

The study’s findings highlight the challenges faced by physicians to balance the known risks with potential benefits of prescription opioids for patients with chronic pain.

The research reinforces the importance of developing tools that will help better identify and treat patients at risk for opioid use disorders and overdose, the researchers concluded.

Source: American College of Physicians

Doctor writing a prescription photo by shutterstock.

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.