Pain, Anxiety Meds Are a Deadly Mix

19 Feb

Researchers are warning of a new danger:

Taking opioids to deal with pain while also taking antianxiety medication can be a deadly combination.

A research team at the Columbia University Medical Center, led by Mark Olfson, M.D., looked into the medical service histories of 13,000 adults who died of an opioid overdose. They found that more than 6 in 10 had been diagnosed with chronic pain during the last year of their lives, and many also suffered from depression and anxiety. Over half the people with chronic pain issues had gotten prescriptions for both opioids and antianxiety drugs like Valium and Xanax in the year they died.

“This medication combination is known to increase the risk of unusually slow and shallow breathing, which is the primary cause of death in most fatal opioid overdoses,” Olfson said. The study looked at a population that was up to age 64. “I think we’d see at least as high and probably a higher death rate among people in the Medicare population,” Olfson said. “That’a an important issue worth studying.”

The growing impact of Opioids. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals just how menacing opioids have been to older Americans. Since 2000, deaths from opioid overdoses have nearly quadrupled overall, but for people age 55 and older, the increase has been much greater.

Source: AARP Bulletin January-February 2018

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