Most patients taking opioids for low back pain or other pain syndromes are prescribed low-to moderate doses, but a substantial number are given higher doses. Although there is no consensus on an absolute limit because tolerance varies over time among individual patients, what is known, however, is higher does are associated with elevated risks for side effects, addiction, overdoses and death. A study published by Oregon Health and Sciences University in The Journal of Pain showed that patients on higher doses of opioids had higher rates of psychiatric problems, co-prescriptions of sedatives and health care services utilization. The Journal of Pain is the per-review publication of the American Pain Society, www.ampainsoc.org.
For the study, the research team sought to examine correlates of higher dose opioid use among patients in primary care settings being treated for low back pain. The goals were to determine the prevalence of higher dose opioid prescribing, identify the demographic and clinical characteristics of patients receiving higher doses, and examine health services utilization patterns among high-dose users.