Risks of Opioid Use
Risk associated with the appropriate use of opioid painkillers
There are risks with taking prescription opioid painkillers, even when they are taken correctly.
42,000 deaths due to opioids in 2016—more than 40% involved prescription opioid painkillers1
~85% of deaths from opioid painkillers are accidental1
>6,000 children 0 to 5 years of age accidentally come in contact with opioids each year2
Teenagers (13-19 years of age) are the age group with the second highest number of opioid exposures among children <20 years of age2
Know the risk factors
Anywhere opioids are present, so is the risk for an opioid overdose.
The risk of having an opioid overdose can increase for a number of reasons:
Increasing doses of opioids3,4
A medical condition that affects your breathing, liver, or kidneys5
Taking opioids and drinking alcohol or taking opioids at the same time as certain anxiety and sleep medications5,6
Having a history of substance use disorder7
Having opioids in your home, which may put others at risk (eg, children or teenagers)2
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Wonder: About multiple causes of death, 1999-2016. http://wonder.cdc.gov/mcd-icd10.html. Accessed January 2, 2018.
- Allen JD, Casavant MJ, Spiller HA, Thipalak C, Hodges NL, Smith GA. Prescription opioid exposures among children and adolescents in the United States: 2000-2015. Pediatrics. 2017;139(4):e20163382.
- Dunn KM, Saunders KW, Rutter CM, et al. Overdose and prescribed opioids: associations among chronic non-cancer pain patients. Ann Intern Med. 2010;152(2):85-92.
- Dasgupta N, Funk MJ, Proescholdbell S, et al. Cohort study of the impact of high-dose opioid analgesics on overdose mortality. Pain Med. 2016;17:85-89.
- Gudin JA, Mogali S, Jones JD, Comer SD. Risks, management, and monitoring of combination opioid, benzodiazepines, and/or alcohol use. Postgrad Med. 2013;125(4):115-130.
- US Food and Drug Administration. FDA warns about serious risks and death when combining opioid pain or cough medications with benzodiazepines; requires its strongest warning. August 31, 2016. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm518473.htm. Accessed May 17, 2017.
- Volkow ND, McLellan AT. Opioid abuse in chronic pain—misconceptions and mitigation strategies. N Engl J Med. 2016;374:1253-1263.
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