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Study: Nearly 80 Percent Of Addicts Stay On Drugs After Overdosing

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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The number of people filling out painkiller prescriptions only goes down 10 percent after they’ve experienced an overdose, according to a study that the University of Pittsburgh published Tuesday.

The study investigated data from Pennsylvania Medicaid on 6,013 addicts for which the state had continuous data for the six months before and after an overdose between 2008 and 2013. It found that overdoses prompted just 10 percent of addicts to stop using opioids and only 12 percent to seek medication-assisted treatment, Philly.com reported Tuesday.

Of the addicts investigated that had overdosed on opioids, 66 percent had sought opioid prescriptions before their overdose. Afterward, 59 percent still sough prescriptions. Of those who had overdosed on heroin, 43 percent sought opioid prescriptions before their overdose and 39 percent continued to seek it afterward.

Addicts had “a relatively weak health-system response to a life-threatening event,” the study’s authors wrote. “We had hoped to see a greater response.” (RELATED: Louisville Hops On Bandwagon To Sue Big Pharma Over Opioid Crisis)

There are roughly 30 overdose survivors for every overdose death, according to the study, and each of those survivors represents an opportunity for doctors to intervene and recommend medical-assisted treatment where doctors wean addicts away from substance dependency, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

According to David K. Kelley, chief medical officer for Pennsylvania Medicaid, the most worrying aspect of the study was the ease with which addicts could obtain opioid prescriptions from their primary caregivers after having an overdose. It reveals a disconnect between ER doctors treating overdoses and the rest of the hospital, Kelly told Philly.com.

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