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Study: Patients are using narcotic painkillers for longer, on higher doses

Fewer people are taking potentially addictive narcotic painkillers. But a study released Tuesday also bears bad news: Patients who are prescribed those drugs are taking them for longer periods of time, and at higher dosages.

Almost half of patients taking painkillers for 30 days in the Express Scripts' study first year were still using them three years later, a behavior that indicates potential abuse. Nearly 60 percent of patients taking prescription painkillers long-term were also prescribed drugs that could result in dangerous — even potentially fatal — reactions, like muscle relaxants or anti-anxiety meds.

"It begs for the use of active monitoring and also for better coordination of care," Express Scripts senior vice president Glen Stettin told The New York Times.