Rate of Fatally Injured Drivers Who Test Positive for Prescription Opioids Surges

A new study finds the percentage of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for prescription opioids rose seven-fold between 1995 and 2015.

Researchers from Columbia University analyzed data from nearly 37,000 drivers who died within one hour of a motor vehicle crash. They found 24 percent had drugs in their system, of which 3 percent were prescription opioids, HealthDayreports. Among drivers who tested positive for prescription opioids, 30 percent also had high blood alcohol levels, and 67 percent had traces of other drugs.

Full story at Science Daily

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National strategy to reduce opioid epidemic, an urgent public health priority

Years of sustained and coordinated efforts will be required to contain and reverse the harmful societal effects of the prescription and illicit opioid epidemics, which are intertwined and getting worse, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report, requested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says it is possible to stem the still-escalating prevalence of opioid use disorder and other opioid-related harms without foreclosing access to opioids for patients suffering from pain whose providers have prescribed these drugs responsibly. The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report recommended actions the FDA, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and health-related organizations should take — which include promoting more judicious prescribing of opioids, expanding access to treatment for opioid use disorder, preventing more overdose deaths, weighing societal impacts in opioid-related regulatory decisions, and investing in research to better understand the nature of pain and develop non-addictive alternatives.

“The broad reach of the epidemic has blurred the formerly distinct social boundary between prescribed opioids and illegally manufactured ones, such as heroin,” said committee chair Richard J. Bonnie, Harrison Foundation Professor of Medicine and Law and director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “This report provides an action plan directed particularly at the health professions and government agencies responsible for regulating them. This plan aims to help the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain while reducing unnecessary opioid prescribing. We also wanted to convey a clear message about the magnitude of the challenge. This epidemic took nearly two decades to develop, and it will take years to unravel.”

Full story of national strategy to reduce the opioid epidemic at Science Daily

Clinical trial looks at tramadol for opioid withdrawal

A randomized clinical trial published by JAMA Psychiatry compared tramadol extended-release with clonidine and buprenorphine for the management of opioid withdrawal symptoms in patients with opioid use disorder in a residential research setting.

Opioid use disorder is a public health problem that has contributed to unprecedented levels of overdose deaths. Detoxification – or medically supervised withdrawal – is a widely used treatment for opioid use disorder. However, failing to adequately manage opioid withdrawal symptoms can contribute to people leaving treatment.

Clonidine and buprenorphine are two medications widely used to manage opioid withdrawal. Tramadol hydrochloride is a promising alternative option for effective opioid use disorder treatment, according to the article.

Full story of tramadol and opioid withdrawal at Science Daily

People With Anxiety and Depression Have High Rate of Prescription Opioid Use

People with anxiety and depression have a high rate of prescription opioid use, a new study finds.

Almost 19 percent of the estimated 38.6 million people diagnosed with anxiety and depression received at least two prescriptions for opioids in one year, the study found. More than half of opioid prescriptions went to people with these mental health disorders, according to The Washington Post.

People with anxiety and depression may feel pain more acutely, or may be less able to cope with the pain, leading to increased requests for opioids, said lead researcher Brian Sites of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

Full story of depression and high prescribed opioids at drugfree.org