Study: Mental Illness Associated With Long-Term Opioid Use
According to a recent study published in the journal Pain, people with a mental health diagnosis are more likely to take prescription opioids long-term, which is also linked to abuse. Thus, people with mental health issues may be more vulnerable to opioid addiction than others.
For the study, researchers pulled information on opioid use from the Truven Health MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database from 2004 to 2013. This database contains anonymous patient data from employers, COBRA, and Medicare plans.
Researchers examined more than 10 million patients who filed claims for prescription opioids from 2004-2013. Next, they scanned for patients with a prior history of mental health or behavioral conditions, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, suicidal ideations, and substance abuse.
In addition, they identified prior psychoactive drugs use, including stimulants, antidepressants, and anti-psychotics.
According to the results, around 1.7% of people who took opioids used them for at least six months. Increased rates of long-term opioid use were associated with a history of psychoactive drug use and/or mental health conditions.
For those with a prior history of opioid abuse, the risk was 9 times higher than controls, and the risk for those taking medication for ADHD was about 1.5 times higher than controls.
Study authors suggested that by identifying those at an increased risk of opioid abuse, physicians can better screen their patients and opt for appropriate medication, if necessary.
Other recent studies have found that doctors may be over-prescribing opioids. For example, a study published just last year revealed that 91% of those who survived an opioid overdose received additional opioid prescriptions.
Guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year recommended that physicians consider alternative pain management approaches, use prescription monitoring databases, and begin a patient’s prescription with the lowest dose and shortest duration possible.
According to the CDC, in 2015, more than 52,000 Americans lost their lives to an accidental overdose. Of those, more than 33,000 involved prescription opioids or illicit heroin/fentanyl.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology