Teens with Mental Health Conditions More Likely to be Prescribed Long-Term Opioids for Chronic Pain
The Journal of Adolescent Health recently published a study in its June issue titled, Mental Health Disorders and Long-term Opioid Use Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Chronic Pain. This study concluded that adolescences and young adults with preexisting mental health conditions are 2.4 times more likely to be prescribed opioids over extended periods of time for chronic pain. The most common documented chronic pain complaints included back pain, neck pain, headache and arthritis or joint pain.
Researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington looked at 13 to 24 year-olds across the West, Midwest and Southwest United States to examine the association between long-term opioid use and mental health disorders. They found that older male youth who live in low-income communities with fewer residents who attended college, were even more likely to use opioids for extended periods.
Researchers defined “long-term opioid use” as using more than 90 days worth of opioids over the course of six months with no gap of more than 30 days between usages.
Dr. Laura Richardson, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and one of the study’s lead researchers, explains that there are many plausible reasons why this specific population is at such an increased risk to use opioid painkillers long-term. She states, “Depression and anxiety might increase pain symptoms and lead to longer treatment, and physicians may see depressed patients as being more distressed and may be willing to treat pain symptoms over a longer period of time.”
In the video above, Richardson talks about the study and how providers can use its findings to look for preexisting mental disorders before prescribing long-term opioids. Establishing other factors for long-term pain will ensure that underlying issues, such as depression and anxiety, are addressed.
This study aims to increase awareness of teens’ increased risk of developing dependencies on opioids due to long-term prescriptions. In addition, researchers hope the findings will cause providers to take into account other factors, such as preexisting mental health disorders, when writing prescriptions for long-term opioids.
Melany Boulton is a digital communications intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in public relations and a minor in business administration.