A new study reveals that most people who overdosed on opioids are still getting prescriptions for the painkillers that were close to killing them.
Dr. Marc Larochelle from Boston Medical Center, the lead author of the study declared himself surprised and at the same time concerned by the results of the study, showing that 90 percent of the people who overdosed on opioids are still getting prescriptions without any problem.
The study wasn’t designed to find out why doctors are still prescribing opioid painkillers to people who were almost killed by them but Larochelle believes that doctors are unaware of the patient’s history of overdosing. The author goes on to argue that is the result of the unorganized health care system which doesn’t have a centralized mechanism through which general practitioners can be noticed about the events that happened at the emergency department.
To study the phenomena researchers used an insurance claims database through which they identified about 3,000 patients who overdosed on opioids from 2000 to 2012. All the patients were taking long-term treatments of opioid painkillers prescribed for chronic pain which was not related to cancer.
Over 90 percent of these patients continued to get prescriptions for opioids without any problem. More than that, over 50 percent of them got the prescription from the same doctor who prescribed the almost-fatal doses in the past. In the category of opioid painkillers there are drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, tramadol, codeine and hydromorphone.
Of the 3,000 people who took non-fatal overdoses of opioids, 7 percent (212 people)relapsed and overdosed the second time.
Those who continued to take the opioids after the first overdose were twice more likely to overdose a second time. People who were taking higher doses of opioids were more likely to overdose than those on smaller doses.
Researchers and doctors claim that there is no way to know when a patient has overdosed as there is no national system in place. Besides that, people who misused their prescription drugs are less likely to report the overdose to their prescribing doctors, fearing that they won’t get prescriptions any longer.
However even if the doctor is aware of the overdose, they might be facing a really hard decision – they can either choose to terminate the prescription knowing that their patient will suffer withdrawal which might cause them great harm and might even make them turn to the black market for the drugs or they can choose to continue prescribing the drugs even if they know that a second overdose may occur.
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