Mental illness and psychotropic drug use among prescription drug overdose deaths: a medical examiner chart review.
ABSTRACT Between 1999 and 2006, there was a 120% increase in the rate of unintentional drug overdose deaths in the United States. This study identifies the prevalence of mental illness, a risk factor for substance abuse, and chronic pain among prescription drug overdose deaths in West Virginia and ascertains whether psychotropic drugs contributing to the deaths were used to treat mental illness or for nonmedical purposes.
In 2007, we abstracted data on mental illness, pain, and drugs contributing to death from all unintentional prescription drug overdose deaths in 2006 recorded by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Decedent prescription records were obtained from the state prescription drug monitoring program.
Histories of mental illness and pain were documented in 42.7% and 56.6% of 295 decedents, respectively. Psychotropic drugs contributed to 48.8% of the deaths, with benzodiazepines involved in 36.6%. Benzodiazepines contributing to death were not associated with mental illness (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.1; 95% CI, 0.6-1.8), while all other psychotropic drugs were (AOR = 3.9; 95% CI, 2.0-7.6). Of decedents with contributory benzodiazepines, 46.3% had no prescription for the drug.
Mental illness may have contributed to substance abuse associated with deaths. Clinicians should screen for mental illness when prescribing opioids and recommend psychotherapy as an adjunct or an alternate to pharmacotherapy. Benzodiazepines may have been used nonmedically rather than as a psychotropic drug, reflecting drug diversion. Restricting benzodiazepine prescriptions to a 30-day supply with no refills might be considered.
- SourceAvailable from: Brian C Sauer[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Little is known about the characteristics that may predispose an individual to being at risk for fatal overdose from prescription opioids. OBJECTIVE: To identify characteristics related to unintentional prescription opioid overdose deaths in Utah. DESIGN: Interviews were conducted (October 2008-October 2009) with a relative or friend most knowledgeable about the decedent's life. SUBJECTS: Analyses involved 254 decedents aged 18 or older, where cause of death included overdose on at least one prescription opioid. KEY RESULTS: Decedents were more likely to be middle-aged, Caucasian, non-Hispanic/Latino, less educated, not married, or reside in rural areas than the general adult population in Utah. In the year prior to death, 87.4 % were prescribed prescription pain medication. Reported potential misuse prescription pain medication in the year prior to their death was high (e.g., taken more often than prescribed [52.9 %], obtained from more than one doctor during the previous year [31.6 %], and used for reasons other than treating pain [29.8 %, almost half of which "to get high"]). Compared with the general population, decedents were more likely to experience financial problems, unemployment, physical disability, mental illness (primarily depression), and to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and use illicit drugs. The primary source of prescription pain medication was from a healthcare provider (91.8 %), but other sources (not mutually exclusive) included: for free from a friend or relative (24 %); from someone without their knowledge (18.2 %); purchase from a friend, relative, or acquaintance (16.4 %); and purchase from a dealer (not a pharmacy) (11.6 %). CONCLUSIONS: The large majority of decedents were prescribed opioids for management of chronic pain and many exhibited behaviors indicative of prescribed medication misuse. Financial problems, unemployment, physical disability, depression, and substance use (including illegal drugs) were also common.Journal of General Internal Medicine 10/2012; · 3.28 Impact Factor
- New England Journal of Medicine 07/2012; 367(2):146-55. · 51.66 Impact Factor
- [show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: For the past 30 years, opioids have been used to treat chronic nonmalignant pain. This study tests the following hypotheses: (1) there is no strong evidence-based foundation for the conclusion that long-term opioid treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain is effective; and (2) the main problem associated with the safety of such treatment - assessment of the risk of addiction - has been neglected. Scientometric analysis of the articles representing clinical research in this area was performed to assess (1) the quality of presented evidence (type of study); and (2) the duration of the treatment phase. The sufficiency of representation of addiction was assessed by counting the number of articles that represent (1) editorials; (2) articles in the top specialty journals; and (3) articles with titles clearly indicating that the addiction-related safety is involved (topic-in-title articles). Not a single randomized controlled trial with opioid treatment lasting >3 months was found. All studies with a duration of opioid treatment ≥6 months (n = 16) were conducted without a proper control group. Such studies cannot provide the consistent good-quality evidence necessary for a strong clinical recommendation. There were profound differences in the number of addiction articles related specifically to chronic nonmalignant pain patients and to opioid addiction in general. An inadequate number of chronic pain-related publications were observed with all three types of counted articles: editorials, articles in the top specialty journals, and topic-in-title articles. There is no strong evidence-based foundation for the conclusion that long-term opioid treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain is effective. The above identified signs indicating neglect of addiction associated with the opioid treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain were present.Journal of Pain Research 01/2013; 6:513-29.