A new study finds higher doses of opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin are associated with increased risk of death by accidental overdose from these powerful painkillers. Reuters reports that the findings add to the debate over how to balance treating patients’ severe pain with the potential for misuse of the drugs.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at patients treated through the Veterans Health Administration between 2004 and 2008, and found that out of 1.8 million people treated with opioids, there were 750 deaths from accidental overdoses. The researchers found that patients with prescriptions for higher doses were more likely to accidentally overdose.
Patients with a prescription for 100 milligrams per day or higher of opioids were between six and eight times more likely to overdose than those with a prescription for between 1 and 20 milligrams per day. Accidental overdoses were also more likely among patients with substance abuse problems or mental illness, Reuters reported.