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Most Patients Keep Receiving Opioids After Overdose, Study Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the country continues to see record numbers of overdoses, is it possible that some patients who overdose are still able to get new prescriptions?

A new study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, had Harvard researchers study roughly 2,800 patients who overdosed on opioids between May 2000 and December 2012, finding that more than 90 percent of these patients continued to be dispensed opioids one or more times after their overdose.

But the research does not stop there.

The researchers said many of the patients went on to have a repeated overdose after being given more prescription drugs. In the study, receiving higher doses of opioids after the overdose was associated with an increased risk for repeated overdose.

This study also found that 70 percent of patients who continued to receive opioids after the overdose obtained them from a prescriber who had treated them before the overdose. In some cases this may be because those prescribers were not aware of the overdose episode.

In the study, the authors emphasized that nonfatal opioid overdose is an opportunity to identify and treat substance use disorders, and that more attention should be paid to discontinuing opioid use after overdosing.

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