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Side effects of opioid painkillers increase risk for seniors

March 18, 2015
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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A recent National Safety Council downloadable white paper, The Psychological and Physical Side Effects of Pain Medications, compared the risks and side effects opioid medications present against the effectiveness and safety of various other medications, including over-the-counter (OTC) products.

Hidden side effects of opioid painkillers include addiction, changes to the brain chemistry, respiratory depression and withdrawal.

Older adults taking opioids are particularly at risk for unintentional injury and death, the report finds. They are 68 percent more likely to be hospitalized, 67 percent more likely to die, experience four times as many bone fractures as those taking OTC painkillers.

“More Americans overdose on prescription painkillers than on heroin and cocaine combined. If doctors and their patients understand the risks and side effects, they can discuss more effective options, said Deborah A.P. Hersman, National Safety Council president and CEO, in a press release.

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