More Than Half of Opioid Overdose Deaths Linked to Chronic Pain Diagnoses


More than 60% of Americans who died from an opioid overdose suffered from chronic non-cancer related pain. Furthermore, it was found that they had also filled an opioid prescription (49%), and in some cases, seen a doctor, in the month before they died.


These findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (Service Use Preceding Opioid-Related Fatality) in late November 2017.


Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) studied 13,089 adults under 65 years of age in the Medicaid program in 45 states, who died of an overdose between 2001 and 2007. Many of those who overdosed also struggled with depression or anxiety. In the year before their death, more than half of individuals studied filled prescriptions for opioids and/or benzodiazepines (sedatives or depressants), and many had filled prescriptions for both.


Researchers emphasize the fact that the frequent concurrence of chronic pain and mental health conditions can result in the danger of combining the 2 types of drugs, leading to issues like “respiratory depression,” or life-threatening shallow breathing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Americans who died from an opioid overdose has quadrupled from 1999 to 2015. In March 2016, the CDC released opioid prescribing guidelines, recommending that prescribers reduce the use of opioids in favor of safer alternatives, like physical therapy. Physical therapists treat pain through movement and exercise and partner with patients to improve or maintain their mobility and quality of life.


The American Physical Therapy Association has launched a national campaign to raise awareness about the risks of long-term use of prescription opioids for pain and physical therapy as a safe, nondrug alternative to manage pain. Learn more at our #ChoosePT page.


Related Resources:

#ChoosePT for Safe Pain ReliefPhysical Therapist’s Guide to Chronic Pain Syndromes


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About Innovative Physical Therapy

Innovative Physical Therapy is owned by local physical therapist, Bryan Morrow, MPT, with four convenient locations throughout Maryland. We are known for our fun environment focused on personalized therapy plans that get our patients out of pain and back to doing what they love. Through physical, manual and aquatic therapy they are helping individuals return to their prior level of functioning and encourage activities and lifestyle changes that can help prevent further injury and improve overall health and well-being. For more information visit the website at https://www.innovativeptcenters.com/

Proudly Serving the entire state of Maryland via telehealth.

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