Background: Narcotic addiction can be a significant problem in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, there are few published reports about this problem.
Methods: All patients prescribed narcotics chronically in the absence of demonstrable organic pathology were identified on the computerized Brisbane IBD Research Group database (n=332 patients with informative data as of 1 January 1999). Individual case records were reviewed with regard to clinical, psychiatric and social characteristics of these patients, and the prevalence of psychiatric disorders were compared with a control group of IBD patients.
Results: Eleven patients were identified. Nine had complete datasets, eight with Crohn's disease (CD), of which six had previous stricturing ileal disease, and one patient had ulcerative colitis, making a prevalence of 2.7% of IBD patients and 5.1% of CD patients. A 67% prevalence of a psychiatric disorder in narcotic users was significantly greater than the 8% prevalence in the control group of IBD patients (odds ratio 22, 95% CI 3.24-177).
Conclusions: A significant proportion of IBD patients without demonstrable organic pathology were chronic narcotic users. Psychiatric disorders are common in this subgroup, as with chronic functional abdominal pain syndromes. It is suggested that inappropriate narcotic use in IBD patients can be reduced by appreciating that narcotics are a temporary therapy only for IBD patients, and awareness of pre-existing social and psychiatric disorders, which not only impact on clinical presentation of pain, but also help define the subgroup of patients who are at risk of narcotic misuse.