(HealthDay News) — For adults of all ages, especially those aged 85 years or older, prescription opioids are associated with an increased risk for serious fall events, according to a study published online Feb. 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Ria E. Hopkins, PhD, from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and colleagues conducted a population-based cohort study to quantify the age-related risk for serious fall events among 3,212,369 adults who initiated prescription opioid treatment.

There were 506,573 serious fall events, including 5,210 fatal falls overall. The researchers found that the risk for serious fall events was elevated among all age groups during exposure to opioids; the risk was highest among those aged 85 years or older compared with those aged 18 to 44 years (adjusted incident rate ratio, 6.35). The first 28 days after opioid initiation was a time of increased serious fall risk across all age groups; this risk increased with age. Associations were identified between higher daily opioid doses and serious fall events among individuals aged 18 to 84 years.

“These risks should be considered when prescribing opioids, particularly for individuals with preexisting risk factors for falls, including frailty and older age, or when opioids are prescribed at higher doses,” the authors write.

One author disclosed ties to Indivior and Seqirus.

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