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J Subst Abuse Treat. 2012 Jan;42(1):87-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2011.07.003. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

Patterns of prescription opioid abuse and comorbidity in an aging treatment population.

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Washington University Department of Psychiatry, Campus Box 8134, 660 S. Euclid Avenue, St. Louis MO 63110, USA.


Very little is known about the impact of age and gender on drug abuse treatment needs. To examine this, we recruited 2,573 opioid-dependent patients, aged from 18 to 75 years, entering treatment across the country from 2008 to 2010 to complete a self-administered survey examining drug use histories and the extent of comorbid psychiatric and physical disorders. Moderate to very severe pain and psychiatric disorders, including polysubstance abuse, were present in a significant fraction of 18- to 24-year-olds, but their severity grew exponentially as a function of age: 75% of those older than 45 years had debilitating pain and psychiatric problems. Women had more pain than men and much worse psychiatric issues in all age groups. Our results indicate that a "one-size-fits-all" approach to prevention, intervention, and treatment of opioid abuse that ignores the shifting needs of opioid-abusing men and women as they age is destined to fail.

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