New Study Reveals Who is Most at Risk for Opioid Overdose | AspenRidge

New Study Reveals Who is Most at Risk for Opioid Overdose

Opioid-Related Deaths Continue To Spike In The U.S.

It’s no secret that opioids are a major problem in our country – so much so that the federal government has declared the opioid problem a national public health emergency. Needless to say, things have to get pretty bad before the president of the United States goes on national television and announces that a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for an unprecedented death toll. But, you might be shocked to learn that approximately 33,000 people are dying every year from an overdose of prescription opioid drugs like Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Percocet, and Fentanyl. That means about 90 Americans are dying every day because of opioids. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, the number of opioid-related deaths has quadrupled, from 8,048 in 1999 to 33,091 in 2015. The question is, who is at the greatest risk of taking opioids to the point of fatal overdose? If you think it’s the so-called heroin junkie buying smack on the street looking to get a quick buzz, you’re wrong.   A recent study revealed that people who are at the highest risk for opioid-related overdose are those who have been diagnosed with chronic pain and are taking legal prescription opioids to get some relief. Many opioid-related deaths are also attributed to people who are taking opioids and have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

A New Study Indicates People With Chronic Pain And Psychiatric Conditions Are At The Greatest Risk For Opioid Overdose And Death

As reported in Science Daily, a recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry revealed that “just over 60 percent of individuals who died from an opioid overdose had been diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, and many had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, a study of more than 13,000 overdose deaths has found.” The study was led by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and it is the first to determine the proportion of those who died of an opioid overdose with chronic pain. According to Science Daily, “the researchers analyzed clinical diagnoses and filled medication prescriptions for more than 13,000 adults in the Medicaid program who died of an opioid overdose. During the last year of life, more than half of these individuals had been diagnosed with chronic pain. Many had also been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.” Mark Olfson, MD, professor of psychiatry at CUMC and lead investigator of the study, told Science Daily, “The frequent occurrence of treated chronic pain and mental health conditions among overdose decedents underscores the importance of offering substance use treatment services in clinics that treat patients with chronic pain and mental health problems. Such a strategy might increase early clinical intervention in patients who are at high risk for fatal opioid overdose.” Olfson reported that about one-third of those who died of an opioid overdose had been diagnosed with a drug use disorder the year prior to their death. “Because clinical diagnoses generally indicate treatment, this service pattern suggests that dropout from drug treatment is common before fatal opioid overdose. Improving treatment retention with contingency management or other effective behavioral interventions might help lower the risk of fatal overdose in these patients,” Olfson said.

People With Chronic Pain Who Take Opioids – Watch Out!

This study should serve as a cautionary tale for those who suffer from chronic pain and have been prescribed opioids. New information is coming out that opioids aren’t that effective for treating chronic pain – but they are notorious for building tolerance and causing physical dependence. When you are in chronic pain, you will do just about anything to find relief. This means continuing to up the amount of opioids you are taking, which increases the risk of overdose. When you take opioids for an extended period of time, your body gets used to them and builds a tolerance. This means you need to take more and more opioids to get the same effect you used to get from a lower dose. As you increase your dosage, you will most assuredly develop a physical dependence on opioids. This means you won’t be able to function as a human being without taking the dosage to which your body has become accustomed. If you try to stop taking opioids, you will go through the painful experience of withdrawal. If you’re taking opioids to battle chronic pain, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about getting off the stuff or taking a safer alternative.

Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders

If you have a psychiatric diagnosis like bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, or PTSD and you have a substance abuse problem, you are said to have a co-occurring disorder – also known as a dual-diagnosis. A co-occurring disorder is present when you have a mental health issue and you have an addiction problem. When both conditions are present, treating one or the other becomes extremely complicated. If you have a co-occurring disorder, you are among millions of Americans with the same situation. According to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), roughly 7.9 million adults in the U.S. had co-occurring disorders in 2014. The same survey found that approximately 1 in 5 adults ages 18 and older suffered from some form of mental health diagnosis, which equals about 18 percent of all adults in the United States. With a mental health diagnosis comes the increased likelihood that you are taking some kind of medication to treat your condition. You may even be taking benzodiazepines – also known as benzos. If you are taking benzos and opioids, this can be a lethal combination.   According Olfson’s study, in the year before death, more than half had filled prescriptions for opioids or benzodiazepines, and many had filled prescriptions for both types of medications. “This medication combination is known to increase the risk of respiratory depression, which is the unusually slow and shallow breathing that is the primary cause of death in most fatal opioid overdoses,” said Dr. Olfson. “In the years since, there has been an increase in the proportion of US overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines and opioids.” Olfson and other authors of the study have urged providers to restrict the combination of benzos and opioids, to the lowest possible dose and duration of use, and provide alternative medications wherever possible.

Are You Engaging In Prescription Drug Abuse?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the “misuse of prescription drugs means taking a medication in a manner or dose other than prescribed; taking someone else’s prescription, even if for a legitimate medical complaint such as pain; or taking a medication to feel euphoria or get high.” Research indicates that opioids are among the most commonly abused prescription medications. This is because opioids make you feel soooooooo good and they are highly addictive substances. However; you should be warned. Those who die from opioid overdose didn’t plan to die prematurely. It happened because they took too many opioids and they died from a fatal overdose, most likely caused by opioid-induced respiratory depression. If you’re taking opioids, you could be next. You could go to be and not wake up. It happens to about 100 Americans every day. Are you taking opioids without a prescription? Or, are you taking more opioids than you are supposed to so that you can treat your chronic pain? If so, then you are engaging in prescription drug abuse and you probably have a problem with addiction.

Getting Help For An Addiction To Opioids

We talked a little bit about opioid withdrawal. This is what happens when your body has become accustomed to taking opioids and you remove them from your body. It is an excruciating process. Symptoms include extreme head-to-toe body aches, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, tremors, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. You should not attempt to stop taking opioids without professional help. You can experience seizure, coma, or death if you attempt to remove opioids from your body without undergoing a professional medical detoxification. A medical detox happens in a medical facility like a hospital or an inpatient rehabilitation treatment center where you can be monitored and evaluated so you can withdraw safely and comfortably. Many people who quit using opioids undergo Opioid Replacement Therapy. This is the process of replacing whatever opioid you have been using with a drug like Subutex or Suboxone. These are safer opioid drugs that you take for a period of time and slowly remove them from your body so that you relieve withdrawal symptoms and manage cravings. No matter how you choose to do it, we recommend that you find a way to get off opioids. These are dangerous substances. Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist about kicking your addiction. Don’t become a statistic.

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