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Pre-Existing Mental Health Conditions Tied to Long-Term Opioid Use

A recent study published in the international pain journal PAIN has found that patients with pre-existing psychiatric and behavioral conditions may be more likely to use opioids later in life.

Researchers used a national insurance database to identify 10.3 million patents who filed insurance claims for opioid prescriptions over a nine-year period. Researchers wanted to see if pre-existing psychiatric conditions and use of psychoactive medications were predictors of later opioid use.

The study found that patients who used opioids over a long period of time were more likely to have a preexisting psychiatric condition than those who only used them for a short period of time. Researchers say this finding contributes to other studies that suggest opioids are more likely to be prescribed in higher doses and for longer periods of time to patients at high risk for bad outcomes.

Long-term opioid use is associated with substance use disorders, depression, suicidal or self-injuring behavior, and motor vehicle crashes. Researchers say their findings suggest these factors are also predictors of which patients are at risk of long-term use of prescription opioids. So they say if physicians are going to prescribe opioids long-term they should consider also assessing their patients’ mental health. 


Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.

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