According to a study published in BMJ (British Medical Journal), individuals who use opium for long periods of time, even in relatively low doses, are more than twice as likely to die from several major causes including cancer, circulatory diseases and respiratory conditions.
Results from the study, conducted in northern Iran, raise questions regarding the risks of long term prescription opioids for chronic pain treatment.
Opium consumption is extremely common in Iran and approximately 20 million individuals worldwide use opium or its derivatives. This study is the first to measure the risks of mortality in opium users vs.non-users
Prior investigations indicate that opium may play a role in coronary heart disease, throat cancer, bladder cancer and other conditions. However, researchers are unsure about the effects opium has on overall mortality, particularly for low-doses used over a long period.
In order to examine the association between opium use and subsequent risk of death, the researches studied opium use among 50,045 adults, aged 40 to 75, living in Golestan Province in northern Iran, for an average of 5 years.
8,487 (17%) study participants reported using opium. Those who used opium did so for an average duration of 12.7 years. During the study period 2,145 deaths were reported.