A recent report developed by scientists from Columbia University discovered that pain might be one of the factors which lead to opioid overdoses. The results show that over 60 percent of those who end up addicted to these pills have started taking them to treat chronic pain.
Chronic pain, the most common diagnosis leading to opioid overdose
More people died of overdoses between 1999 and 2015, as their number increased from 8,000 to 33,000. Therefore, the researchers decided to take a look at the prescriptions these people had received. Their report looks at around 13,000 prescriptions given through Medicaid which resulted in an opioid-related death.
Among the most common conditions present on the prescriptions, there was chronic pain, but also depression and anxiety. Also, most of the victims had received the chronic pain diagnosis only 12 months before they died. Most interestingly, few of them had a history of substance abuse.
The combination between opioids and benzodiazepines is fatal
Researchers say this report perfectly highlights the situation of the American healthcare system. Doctors prescribe way too many pills, and have trouble whenever they need to find an alternative method of treatment. Also, they are not ready to intervene or prevent patients from suffering a fatal opioid overdose.
The report also showed that many victims had received prescriptions for both opioids and benzodiazepines one year before dying. This is quite an unhappy combination, since taking the two drugs at the same time can lead to respiratory depression, the main cause of death in most overdose cases.
Even if this already sounds bad enough, researchers fear they might have underestimated the numbers. They collected the data recorded only between 2001 and 2007, but the opioid epidemic started in 2013, and reached its peak in 2016. Then, around 62,000 people died from overdosing on painkillers, and many of them started combining opioids with benzodiazepines.