Increased Risk of Death in Opioid and Non-Opioid Using Chronic Pain Patients

the MPR take:

A study published in the journal Pain provides new insights into the risk of death associated with the use of opioids in the treatment of non-cancer pain. The study, which utilized data from the Danish Health and Morbidity surveys from 2000–2005 as well as official Danish healthcare statistics and socioeconomic registers, found that for long-term opioid users, the risk of all-cause mortality was 1.72 times higher than for individuals without chronic pain. Among short-term opioid using and non-opioid–using chronic pain patients, the risk of all-cause mortality was 1.39 times higher than for those without chronic pain. This finding indicates that the higher mortality rate in chronic pain patients, while possibly a product of continuous opioid use, could also be caused by the seriousness of the pain problem. No differences were seen in mortality rates between short-term opioid users and non-opioid users with chronic pain, although the mortality rate was higher compared to those without chronic pain. The risk of all-cause mortality in short-term opioid users was somewhat lower than in long-term users. Long-term opioid users had four times the risk of toxicity/poisoning by drugs, medications, and biological substances than individuals without chronic pain. While non-opioid users with chronic pain did not have a greater risk of poisoning by drugs, medications, or biological substances, they did have a slightly higher risk for injury vs. those without chronic pain. The evidence provided in the study is the first to directly link legally prescribed opioids to mortality risk related to short-term and long-term opioid use in chronic noncancer pain patients.

In a new study published in PAIN, researchers in Denmark found an increased risk of death associated with chronic pain without opioid treatment, as well as an even higher risk among those prescribed opioids for long-term use and a somewhat lower risk associated with short-term use.