Racial disparities in prescribing opioids for chronic pain

Yale researchers have identified racial disparities in the treatment of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain. Black patients who receive opioids long-term are more likely than whites to be tested for illicit drug use. Of those who test positive, blacks are more likely to have their opioid prescriptions discontinued, said the researchers.

More than 40% of opioid overdose deaths in the United States are attributed to prescription opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and Percocet. Efforts to curb the crisis have focused in part on limiting opioid overprescribing. Less attention has been paid to how providers monitor and treat patients once opioids are initiated.

The Yale-led research team analyzed data from the electronic health records of more than 15,000 patients who received opioids from the Veterans Administration between 2000 and 2010. The researchers reviewed whether patients were screened for illicit drug use after starting opioids, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also looked at whether opioids were discontinued in those who tested positive for either marijuana or cocaine.

Full story at Science Daily

Heroin’s Low Cost and Easy Access Attract People Addicted to Painkillers: Study

A study of people addicted to painkillers who began using heroin confirms that many of them were drawn to heroin’s low cost and wide availability.

Researchers surveyed 15,000 people being treated for drug addiction, and conducted in-depth interviews with 267 of them. They found almost half of those interviewed were addicted to opioid painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet before using heroin,HealthDay reports.

Three-fourths of those interviewed said they tried heroin because of its lower cost and greater availability.

Lead researcher Theodore Cicero of Washington University in St. Louis said heroin use began rising after the federal government began shutting down “pill mills” and doctors who illegally prescribe opioids.

Full story of addiction to painkillers and heroin at drugfree.org