SALT LAKE CITY, June 14 (UPI) -- Opioids -- pain-relief drugs like methadone, morphine and oxycodone -- were responsible for nearly 50,000 U.S. emergency room visits in 2006, researchers say.
Dr. Lynn R. Webster, medical director and founder of Lifetree Clinical Research and Pain Clinic in Salt Lake City, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration calculates more than 33 million Americans age 12 and older misused extended-release and long-acting opioids in 2007, up from 29 million in 2002.
"Preventing unnecessary deaths from opioid therapy should be a central focus for everyone working in the field of pain medicine," Webster says in a statement. "Our primary objective is to increase understanding of the major risk factors associated with opioid-related deaths and exploring methods that mitigate the adverse effects involved in treating patients with analgesics that are potentially lethal."
Study leader Christina A. Porucznik of the University of Utah analyzed several data sources, including vital statistics, medical examiner records, emergency department diagnoses and the state prescription registry.
"Our analysis showed that prescription drug-related harm, including death, in Utah primarily involved opioids," Porucznik says in a statement. "Additional studies are needed to identify risky prescribing patterns and individual-level risk factors which contribute to opioid-related injury or death."
The findings are published in the journal Pain Medicine.