Stopping Rx Opioid Therapy Raises Risk of Overdose

published on December 1, 2022 by Pat Anson in Pain News Network

Discontinuing opioid therapy for people with chronic pain raises the risk of a patient dying from an overdose, according to a new Canadian study that calls for better guidance for healthcare providers on the risks associated with abrupt tapering.

Researchers analyzed the medical histories of over 14,000 pain patients in British Columbia who were on long term opioid therapy from 2014 to 2018 – a period when physicians in Canada and the United States were being urged to restrict opioid prescriptions due to a worsening overdose crisis. The vast majority of patients studied were either tapered to a lower dose or their opioid treatment was discontinued, regardless of whether they showed signs of opioid use disorder (OUD).

The study findings, published in PLOS Medicine, show that discontinuing opioid therapy for pain was associated with increased overdose risk. The association was even stronger for the small minority of patients diagnosed with OUD. In total, 530 people in the study (3.8%) experienced either a fatal or non-fatal overdose, with 120 of them dying…

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