Over Half of Veterans Given Opioids Become Chronic Users

More than half of all veterans who are prescribed opioids continue to use them chronically or beyond 90 days, according to research presented at the recent American Academy of Pain Medicine Annual Meeting.

Mark Sullivan, MD, PhD, from the University of Washington, and colleagues analyzed 959,226 patient records from the national Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) database. Inclusion criteria was at least 2 outpatient visits at a VHA facility in 2009 and at least 90 days of opioid use within a 180-day time frame. Termination of opioid use was considered to be at least 6 months of no opiod use. Data showed 52.4% of veterans used opioids for more than 90 days and were more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, use tobacco products, be married, have multiple chronic pain conditions, combine multiple opioids, and consume doses >100mg/day.

RELATED: Pain Management Resource Center

With the exception of tobacco use, this study found that mental health and substance use disorders were associated with increased rates of opioid discontinuation. This contradicts previous research that pointed to these disorders as factors in increased opioid use.

The authors hope that these predictors of chronic opioid abuse will contribute to understanding the role of abuse problems in returning veterans.

For more information visit the American Academy Pain Medicine website.

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