New research conducted by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), Toronto, reports that men who are prescribed opioid medications for chronic noncancer pain are twice as likely to escalate their dosage and to die as a result than are female patients. The study found that 1 in 45 men amplified their prescribed dosage to more than 200 mg of morphine or equivalent, compared to 1 in 70 women. This escalation was found in increase the risk of death by a factor of 24 times. The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE. Senior author David Juurlink, MD, PhD, FRCPC, termed the effort the first large-scale study to specify the likelihood of death from chronic opioid therapy.
The study examined the health records of over 250,000 Canadian patients aged 15 to 64, and found that more than 1 in 10 who were prescribed opioids for the first time became chronic users. Further, the research reports that 1 in 350 men and 1 in 850 women died as a result of long-term opioid use. Dr. Juurlink observed that the summary message for clinicians is to “think long and hard before you start a patient on long-term opioid therapy and try if at all possible to avoid escalating to high-dose therapy.”
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Read the journal article here.