Mental Health Disorders Up Long-Term Opioid Use in Youth

About two-fold risk of long-term opioid use for youth with preexisting mental health disorders

THURSDAY, June 14 (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, according to a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

To examine the association between mental health disorders and subsequent long-term opioid use among adolescents, Laura P. Richardson, M.D., M.P.H., 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 to 24 years who presented with a new episode of chronic pain.

Of the total population, the researchers found that 0.5 percent met criteria for long-term opioid use, and 27.4 percent 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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