Scientists find opioid overdose risk factors in people with chronic pain

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A significant study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has pinpointed ten predictors of opioid overdose risk in patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain.

These findings offer valuable insights for healthcare professionals to engage in informed discussions with patients about the risks associated with opioid prescriptions.

The Opioid Crisis and the Need for Predictors

The opioid crisis has raised concerns about addiction and overdose risks associated with opioid medications.

Healthcare providers have been searching for ways to identify patients who might be at a higher risk of experiencing these issues. While some screening tools have been developed, their effectiveness has been questioned.

Dr. Li Wang, a researcher from the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care and the Department of Anesthesia at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, along with co-authors, embarked on a comprehensive study to find reliable predictors of opioid overdose in chronic pain patients.

The Scope of the Study

The research team examined data from 28 different studies involving nearly 24 million patients in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

These patients were prescribed opioids to manage chronic pain, both related to cancer and non-cancer conditions.

The study revealed ten significant predictors of opioid overdose risk:

  1. High-Dose Opioids: Patients prescribed high doses of opioids were at increased risk of opioid overdose.
  2. Fentanyl Prescription: The use of fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, was associated with a higher risk of overdose.
  3. Multiple Prescribers: Patients who received opioid prescriptions from multiple healthcare providers or obtained opioids from various pharmacies faced a greater risk.
  4. History of Overdose: Patients with a prior history of opioid overdose were more likely to experience another overdose.
  5. Current Substance Use Disorder: Individuals with an ongoing substance use disorder had an elevated risk.
  6. Depression: Patients with depression were at a higher risk of opioid overdose.
  7. Bipolar Disorder: Those with bipolar disorder also faced an increased risk.
  8. Other Mental Illness: The presence of other mental health conditions added to the risk.
  9. Pancreatitis: Patients with a history of pancreatitis were identified as at-risk individuals.
  10. Non-Cancer Chronic Pain: Patients experiencing chronic pain unrelated to cancer had an increased risk of opioid overdose.

Enhancing Informed Decision-Making

The findings of this study have significant implications for healthcare professionals and patients.

When considering opioid prescriptions for chronic pain management, healthcare providers can use this information to discuss the potential risks of overdose with their patients.

This facilitates shared decision-making and ensures that patients are well-informed about the risks associated with opioid medications.

In conclusion, this study provides a valuable tool for healthcare professionals to identify patients at a higher risk of opioid overdose when prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

By incorporating these predictors into their discussions with patients, healthcare providers can contribute to safer and more informed decision-making regarding opioid therapy.

If you care about pain, please read studies about why long COVID can cause pain, and common native American plant may help reduce diarrhea and pain.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about why people with red hair respond differently to pain than others, and results showing this drug may relieve painful ‘long covid’ symptoms.

The research findings can be found in Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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