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Overdoses from prescription painkillers are increasing in the United States, a new study shows.

Researchers examined pharmacy files on 9,940 adults who took opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone for at least three months between 1997 and 2005. The patients, who were insured and members of the Group Health Cooperative in Washington, were prescribed the drugs for chronic pain due to non-cancer causes, including conditions of the back or neck, headaches, jaw pain, pain in the extremities, arthritis and menstrual pain or injuries.

Fifty-one patients overdosed on the drugs; six of the overdoses were fatal, the researchers found.

The risk of overdosing increased with the amount of drug prescribed, according to the study. Those given higher doses had nearly nine times the chance of overdosing as those given lower doses of opioids.  Read more…

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