Association between mental health disorders, problem drug use, and regular prescription opioid use

Arch Intern Med. 2006 Oct 23;166(19):2087-93. doi: 10.1001/archinte.166.19.2087.


Background: Use of opioids for chronic noncancer pain is increasing, but standards of care for this practice are poorly defined. Psychiatric disorders are associated with increased physical symptoms such as pain and may be associated with opioid use, but no prospective population-based studies have addressed this issue.

Methods: Analysis of longitudinal data from 6439 participants in the 1998 and 2001 waves of Healthcare for Communities, a nationally representative telephone community survey.

Results: Two hundred thirty-seven subjects (3.6%) reported regular prescription opioid use in 2001. In unadjusted logistic regression models, respondents with a common mental health disorder in 1998 (1165 [12.6%]; major depression, dysthymia, generalized anxiety disorder, or panic disorder) were more likely to report opioid use in 2001 than those without any of these disorders (odds ratio [OR], 4.43; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.64-5.38; P<.001). Risk was increased for initiation (OR, 3.26; 95% CI, 2.44-4.34; P<.001) and continuation (OR, 2.30; 95% CI, 1.02-5.17; P = .04) of opioids. Respondents reporting problem drug use (136 [2.0%]; OR, 3.57; 95% CI, 2.32-5.50; P<.001) but not problem alcohol use (401 [6.5%]; OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.43-1.24; P = .25) reported higher rates of prescribed opioid use than those without problem use. In multivariate logistic regression models controlling for 1998 demographic and clinical variables, common mental health disorder (OR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.47-2.62; P<.001) and problem drug use (OR, 2.98; 95% CI, 1.68-5.30; P<.001) remained significant predictors of opioid use in 2001.

Conclusions: Common mental health disorders and problem drug use are associated with initiation and use of prescribed opioids in the general population. Attention to psychiatric disorders is important when considering opioid therapy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Comorbidity
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Opioid