Your prescribed opioids may raise your family members’ overdose risk

In a new study, researchers found that prescribed opioids are linked to overdose risk for family members without prescriptions.

The research was conducted by a team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses were responsible for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016.

Access to family members’ drugs may be a strong risk factor for an overdose in individuals without their own prescriptions, the researchers found.

In the study, they examined the health care utilization data from a large commercial insurance company in the United States, spanning 2004-2015.

A total of 2,303 people who overdosed on opioids were matched with 9,212 healthy people, and all participants had no prior opioid prescriptions of their own.

The team found that opioid dispensing to family members on the same health insurance plan was associated with a 2.89-fold increase in odds of an individual without a prescription overdosing.

The link existed regardless of age; both children and adults were likelier to overdose if a family member had an opioid prescription.

The team says that when prescriptions are filled and there are extra pills in the medicine cabinet, family members with access to those medications could overdose or become dependent.

They hope that their findings can inform preventative strategies for combatting opioid misuse.

Interventions may focus on expanding access to opioid antagonists, safely storing prescription opioids in the home, and providing greater patient education to limit overdose among family members.

In addition, opioid prescriptions should be limited to the number of pills a patient needs, reducing the number of excess drugs being available.

One author of the study is Joshua Gagne, PharmD, ScD, a pharmacoepidemiologist in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at the Brigham.

The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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