Prescription Opioid Misuse in US Older Adults: Associated Comorbidities and Reduced Quality of Life in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions-III


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Objective: Prescription opioid misuse (POM) prevalence in US older adults (50 years and older) has increased, and preliminary evidence associates POM with poor outcomes. Despite this, little is known about the health-related quality of life, mental and physical health, and substance use profiles of older adults with current and/or past POM. The aim of this study was to evaluate differences in these variables by POM history in US older adults.

Methods: Data were from the 2012–2013 National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, using adults 50 years and older (n = 14,667). Respondents were grouped into mutually exclusive categories: no lifetime POM, prior-to-past-year POM, past-year POM, and persistent POM (ie, prior-to-past-year and past-year POM). Groups were compared using design-based linear regression on health-related quality of life and logistic regression on mental health, physical health, and substance use variables, controlling for sociodemographics.

Results: Older adults with persistent POM had the greatest impairment, including lower mental and physical health–related quality of life and high rates of past-year major depression (17.6%), emergency department use (42.7%), and any substance use disorder (37.4%). Older adults with past-year POM had high rates of physical health diagnoses and health care utilization (eg, 45.6% past-year overnight hospitalization), while those with prior-to-past-year POM had significant current psychopathology (eg, 13.7% with past-year major depression).

Conclusions: Older adults with persistent POM likely need multidisciplinary care for their significant physical and mental health and substance use conditions. Given the elevated psychopathology in those with persistent POM, psychiatrists are well placed to identify those with long-term POM.

J Clin Psychiatry 2019;80(6):19m12853