Study Finds Only 1.3% of Overdose Victims Had Opioid Prescription — Pain News Network – By Pat Anson – Oct 2019
It’s long been a popular belief that prescription opioids fueled the nation’s opioid crisis and play a major role in overdose deaths. The CDC’s 2016 opioid guideline says as much.
But a new study by researchers in Massachusetts has turned that theory on its head. Prescription opioids are not usually involved overdoses.
And even when they are, the overdose victim rarely has an active prescription for them – meaning the medications were diverted, stolen or bought on the street.
“Commonly the medication that people are prescribed is not the one that’s present when they die. And vice versa.
The people who died with a prescription opioid like oxycodone in their toxicology screen often don’t have a prescription for it,” says lead author Alexander Walley, MD, a researcher at Boston Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
Walley and his colleagues analyzed nearly 3,000 opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts from 2013 to 2015, a period when heroin overdoses were surging and the first wave of illicit fentanyl was entering the black market.
Toxicology screens showed that multiple drugs were involved in most of the overdoses, with heroin detected in 61% of the deaths and fentanyl in 45% of them.
Prescription opioids alone were detected in only 16.5% of the overdoses.
The researchers didn’t stop there. They wanted to know if the people who died had prescriptions for the opioid medications that killed them.
To their surprise, only 1.3% of them did.
This fact has been hiding in plain sight ever since the so-called “opioid crisis” began if anyone had wanted to look for the data.
But this would have required delving into the details behind the CDC’s reporting, which was always separated into synthetic and non-synthetic opioids. This nonsensical splitting into categories hides exactly the data we need to address the overdose crisis.
Rx Opioid Myths Exposed
Walley’s study, published in the journal of Public Health Reports, is one of the first to compare overdose toxicology reports with data collected in Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs).
The findings strongly suggest that patients with legitimate prescriptions rarely overdose.
Active prescriptions for tramadol, morphine, hydrocodone and hydromorphone were found in less than 1% of the people who died with the drugs in their system.
Interestingly, active prescriptions for two opioids used to treat addiction — methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone) – were found in about 3% of overdoses linked to the drugs.
Massachusetts pain patient David Wieland says the study findings confirm what he has long believed about the opioid crisis.
“The results of this study show that PROP (Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing) and the anti-opioid zealots have been misleading the public for years, as it completely blows the myths they have been spinning out of the water,” Wieland said.
Wieland says his own doctor bought into the myths, insisting that 75% of all overdose victims were pain patients who died by taking their opioid medication as prescribed.
Dr. Walley says regulators and public health officials should also take note, and that public education campaigns should not solely focus on the risks of prescription opioids.
The CDC’s Rx Awareness campaign, for example, warns people about the abuse of prescription opioids, but says nothing at all about illicit opioids.
I wonder how much longer PROP will be able to hide its subterfuge, how much longer they’ll be able to hide the critical facts that release pain patients from the blame for the “opioid crisis”.