Long-Term Opioid Use Increasing in U.S., Study Finds

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Long-Term Opioid Use Increasing in U.S., Study Finds

New research has found that long-term opioid use is increasing nationwide, and requires additional research on the potential benefits and drawbacks.

From the study:

“While there is little research on potential benefits and harms of long-term use of opioids, available data suggest that long-term use of these medications may be associated with opioid misuse.”

Also, the study noted that long-term prescription painkillers use is “associated with other…adverse outcomes including poor health, concurrent benzodiazepine use, and history of heroin use.”

For the study, researchers examined recent trends and correlations of prescription opioid use and long-term use from more than 47,000 adults, culled from the National Health and Nutrition Survey from 1999 to 2014. Subjects were evaluated on their medication use over a 30-day period. Prescription painkillers use was considered “long-term” after more than 90 days.

The prevalence of opioid medications increased from just over 4% in adult American from 1999-2000 to almost 7% in 2013-2014 – this increase was associated with a surge in long-term use from 2% to more than 5%.

Comparatively, however, among all opioid users, in 2013-2014, nearly 80% were long-term compared with just over 45% in 1999-2000.

The authors stated that these findings “are consistent with previous studies which indicated a growing trend in prescriptions and use of opioids over the past two decades” and also that the study revealed that “the increasing trend in recent years was mainly due to a sharp increase in long-term use of these medications.”

The authors went on to say that the “trend in long-term use of prescription opioids is concerning” due to limited evidence supporting the benefits of this pattern of opioid use.

The study concluded:

“The findings highlight the need for research on potential benefits and harms of long-term use of opioids and efforts to restrict long-term use to patients for whom the benefits outweigh the risks.”

According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two million people in the nation are currently addicted to prescription opioids.

~ G. Natalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology



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