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  1. Starosta, Amy J. PhD
  2. Adams, Rachel Sayko PhD
  3. Marwitz, Jennifer H. MA
  4. Kreutzer, Jeffrey PhD
  5. Monden, Kimberley R. PhD
  6. Dams O'Connor, Kristen PhD
  7. Hoffman, Jeanne PhD


Objective: To summarize the current literature to identify what research has been conducted, examine the approaches used, and determine what is presently known about prescription and nonprescription opioid receipts and use among individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI).


Data Sources: The search strategy included the following: opioid; opiate; analgesics, opioid; opiate alkaloids; or opioid-related disorders; AND brain injury; brain injuries; brain injuries, traumatic; head injury; head injuries; head injuries, closed; head injuries, penetrating; brain concussion; diffuse axonal injury; diffuse axonal injuries; brain trauma/s; head trauma/s; concussion; craniocerebral trauma/s; or TBI. Filters included English and Adults (19+ years). Study Selection: Inclusion: English language, adults with stable TBI, and prescription opioid receipt or use after TBI. Exclusion: Animal models, populations with other acquired brain injury, acute TBI management, and non-peer-reviewed articles, theses, or conference abstracts. Multiple reviewers screened abstracts and full-text articles for eligibility. In total, 771 abstracts were screened, 183 full texts were reviewed, and 21 met eligibility criteria. Data Extraction: Relevant content was independently extracted by multiple observers, including authors, design, sample identification and data source/s, TBI severity, TBI assessment, opioid assessment, study population (demographics, N), military affiliation, comparison groups, date of data collection, and summary of findings.


Results: Studies were published between 1987 and 2019; most data were collected prior to 2015. The majority utilized administrative and electronic medical record data from the Department of Veterans Affairs and retrospective cohort designs, and most focused on prescription opioids. There were no studies evaluating interventions to reduce use of opioids in TBI populations. Preliminary findings suggest that prescription opioid receipt is strongly related to psychological symptoms, including comorbid depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.


Conclusions: Despite increased awareness of opioid receipt and use following TBI, there is limited investigation on the examination of this issue. Future studies should include more varied patient populations as well as evaluate interventions to reduce opioid use following TBI.