Higher Doses of Painkillers Increase Likelihood of Overdose

Research studies were released today that show the chance of an overdose on prescription opiate painkillers is significantly increased in patients that have higher dosage per day prescribed. The most commonly prescribed opiate painkillers are Oxycontin and Vicodin, which are administered in pill form. The data shows that patients prescribed 1 to 20mg per day are much less likely to overdose than those with prescribed amounts closer to 100mg a day.

The data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that middle-aged, white patients suffering from chronic or acute pain are the most likely to accidentally overdose on their opiate pain medication. The number of unintentional deaths from overdose has been increasing at a rapid pace. Between the ten years spanning from 1999 to 2009, accidental deaths from prescription opiate medications increased by 124%. Deaths resulted from both scheduled doses and “as needed” prescriptions.

Overall, the overdose rate in patients with prescriptions of opiate based painkillers is 0.04%. A common thread in the research shows that those with substance use disorders or psychiatric problems are more likely to accidentally overdose than those without these diagnoses.

Some states are trying to take combating prescription pill abuse and accidental overdose into their own hands. Florida is one of the states that is beginning a prescription drug database to monitor distribution and tracking system that they hope will help reduce the number of pill mills in the state. In February, Florida drug agents raided eleven pain clinics in Miami, seizing over $25 million in cash and assets, including 46 high end vehicles, two of which were Lamborghinis.

Pill mills are becoming more and more common around the country.  Typically advertised as pain clinics, doctors at some of these mills have been arrested and charged with prescribing pain pills to those who do not need them. The motif in the crime is profit, with one arrested clinic owner making over $150,000 a day profit on his seven mills. The tracking program is designed to aid law officials in identifying clinics prescribing large amounts of opiate painkillers, and allow for faster prosecution of the offending doctors and management staff.

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