When it comes to prescription painkillers, the difference between controlling pain and dying from an overdose may come down to how strong a prescription the doctor wrote, according to a new study in veterans.

And the threshold for safe prescribing may be lower than most people think – or than most guidelines recommend.
The researchers, led by an opioid overdose expert from the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, made the findings through a careful examination of records from 221 veterans who died from accidental opioid painkiller overdoses, and an equal number of veterans who were matched to be exactly alike in many ways, and took opioids for chronic pain, but did not overdose.
The average dose that the overdose victims had been prescribed was far higher than what the comparison patients had received. On average, those who overdosed had been given a prescription higher than 71 percent of those who didn’t. The findings are published online in the journal Medical Care.

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