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Black patients prescribed opioids are more likely to be tested for illicit drugs, study says

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Posted at 12:14 PM, Aug 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-29 11:45:41-04

(RNN) - Racial bias has been found in how doctors treat patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain.

A study by Yale University found that black patients who receive opioids long-term are more likely than whites to be tested for illicit drug use.

However, whites are at higher risk of opioid overdose, according to researchers.

The study also found that blacks are more likely to have opioids discontinued following a positive drug test.

“If they were black and tested positive for marijuana, they were twice as likely to have opioids discontinued, and for cocaine, they were three times more likely,” said lead researcher, Julie Gaither.

According to the report, researchers analyzed the health records of more than 15,000 patients who received opioids from the Veterans Administration between 2000 and 2010.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires that patients are screened for illicit drug use after starting opioids.

But, Gaither says there is no mandate to immediately stop a patient from taking prescription opioids if they test positive for illicit drugs and a more universal approach to monitoring is needed.

“It’s our feeling that without clear guidance, physicians are falling back on ingrained stereotypes, including racial stereotyping,” said Gaither.

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