Aims: Our study sought to assess the prevalence of and risk factors for opioid drug dependence among out-patients on long-term opioid therapy in a large health-care system.
Methods: Using electronic health records, we identified out-patients receiving 4+ physician orders for opioid therapy in the past 12 months for non-cancer pain within a large US health-care system. We completed diagnostic interviews with 705 of these patients to identify opioid use disorders and assess risk factors.
Results: Preliminary analyses suggested that current opioid dependence might be as high as 26% [95% confidence interval (CI) = 22.0-29.9] among the patients studied. Logistic regressions indicated that current dependence was associated with variables often in the medical record, including age <65 [odds ratio (OR) = 2.33, P = 0.001], opioid abuse history (OR = 3.81, P < 0.001), high dependence severity (OR = 1.85, P = 0.001), major depression (OR = 1.29, P = 0.022) and psychotropic medication use (OR = 1.73, P = 0.006). Four variables combined (age, depression, psychotropic medications and pain impairment) predicted increased risk for current dependence, compared to those without these factors (OR = 8.01, P < 0.001). Knowing that the patient also had a history of severe dependence and opioid abuse increased this risk substantially (OR = 56.36, P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Opioid misuse and dependence among prescription opioid patients in the United States may be higher than expected. A small number of factors, many documented in the medical record, predicted opioid dependence among the out-patients studied. These preliminary findings should be useful in future research efforts.
© 2010 The Authors, Addiction © 2010 Society for the Study of Addiction.