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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article
Study

Associations between stopping prescriptions for opioids, length of opioid treatment, and overdose or suicide deaths in US veterans: observational evaluation.

Oliva EM, Bowe T, Manhapra A, et al. BMJ. 2020.

Guidelines recommend safe opioid prescribing but also warn against sudden tapering or discontinuation of opioids, which can lead to harm among patients physically dependent on the medications. Using data from the Veterans Heath Administration (VA), this observational study examined the association between opioid treatment cessation and death from overdose or suicide. Researchers found an increased risk of death from overdose or suicide regardless of the length of treatment; the risk of death increased with longer treatment duration. The authors recommend that efforts to improve opioid safety include assessing risks that may place patients at risk for overdose or suicide whether they continue or stop opioid treatment.