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Study Examines Relationship between Pain Killers and High-Risk Seniors

Update Date: Oct 23, 2013 02:31 PM EDT
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Even though prescription drugs are given out with strict dosage recommendations from doctors, these drugs often still get abused. Prescription drugs, particularly painkillers, can become highly addictive for high-risk individuals. These drugs could even lead to accidental or intentional overdose. Due to the concerns over painkillers, researchers examined the consumption of analgesics in high- and low-risk seniors. The researchers found that people with a history of suicide attempts are more likely to take painkillers.

For this study, the researchers examined the data of 960 participants living in community dwellings between 1999 and 2001. The participants were over the age of 65 and were a part of a cohort. The researchers conducted interviews to gather information on demographics, general health, medical history, hospitalization, social isolation and alcohol and tobacco intake. The team categorized the use of painkillers into two groups, which were grade I for non-opioid drugs, which are prescribed for low to moderate pain, and grade II for opioid drugs. A category for non-prescribed drugs was also created. The team then organized the participants into three groups, suicide attempters (SA), affective controls (AC), which were people with a history of depression and healthy controls (HC).

The researchers reported that after a three-year follow-up, the percentage of people taking painkillers was 92.7 percent in the SA group, 90.5 percent in the AC group and 84.5 percent in the HC group. The breakdown for grade I users were 36.6 percent in the SA group, 46.1 percent in the AC group and 52.2 percent in the HC group. The consumption of grade II drugs was reversed with 56.1 percent in the SA group, 44.4 percent in the AC group and 32.3 percent in the HC group. These trends reveal that the people with the highest risk of suicide are taking stronger and more painkillers, which could pose a problem since painkillers are often abused. The findings suggest that access to analgesics might need to be regulated for high-risk seniors.

The study's findings were published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

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