(HealthDay News) – When presenting with a new episode of chronic pain, the presence of preexisting mental health disorders is associated with an increased risk of long-term opioid pain use.

To examine the association between mental health disorders and subsequent long-term opioid use among adolescents, Laura P. Richardson, MD, MPH, of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a study using claims data from January 2001 through June 2008 for 59,077 youths aged 13–24 years who presented with a new episode of chronic pain.

Of the total population, the researchers found that 0.5% met criteria for long-term opioid use, and 27.4% had some opioid use. Those with a preexisting mental health diagnosis had a 2.4-fold increased risk of receiving long-term opioids compared with no opioids and a 1.8-fold increased risk of receiving long-term versus some opioids, after controlling for demographic and clinical variables.

“Providers should screen for mental health disorders before starting these medications for chronic pain conditions and should consider referring patients with comorbid depression or anxiety for concurrent mental health treatment, either in a multidisciplinary pain clinic setting or in collaboration with a mental health provider in the community when a multidisciplinary clinic is not available,” the authors write.

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