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June 5, 2013

Opioid Analgesics—Risky Drugs, Not Risky Patients

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Queens, New York.

JAMA. 2013;309(21):2219-2220. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.5794

From 1999 to 2010 the number of people in the United States dying annually from opioid analgesic–related overdoses quadrupled, from 4030 to 16 651.1 Patients' predisposition to overdose could not have changed substantially in that time; what has changed substantially is their exposure to opioids. During this same time, the amount of opioids prescribed also quadrupled.1 The increase in prescribing occurred in the context of a greater emphasis on treating pain following efforts by the American Pain Society, the Veterans Health Administration, The Joint Commission, and others to increase recognition and management of pain, as well as advocacy by pain societies urging physicians to use opioids more readily for patients with chronic noncancer pain.

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