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Pain. 2020 Jan 20. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001812. [Epub ahead of print]

Receipt of multiple outpatient opioid prescriptions is associated with increased risk of adverse outcomes in youth: opioid prescribing trends, individual characteristics, and outcomes from 2005 to 2016.

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Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, RI, United States.
Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, United States.
Department of Orthopedics, Division of Physical Therapy, School of Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, United States.
Department of Neurosurgery, University of New Mexico Hospital, Albuquerque, NM, United States.
Clinical & Translational Science Center, University of New Mexico Health Science Center, Albuquerque, NM, United States.
Centre for Improving Health-Related Quality of Life, School of Psychology, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


Data on all outpatient opioid prescriptions (N = 71,647) to youth below age 21 (N = 42,020) from 2005 to 2016 were extracted from electronic medical records within a university hospital system in New Mexico (NM) as were demographic details and markers of morbidity/mortality. Relative risk was calculated for markers of morbidity/mortality based on sociodemographic characteristics. The sample was primarily male (55.0%), Hispanic/Latinx (50.1%), English-speaking (88.9%), and publicly insured (50.1%). Mean age was 13.54 (SD = 6.50). From 2005 to 2016, overall frequency of opioid prescriptions increased by 86.6% (from 2470 to 4610) with the largest increase (206.2%) observed from 2005 to 2008 (2470-7562). Patients who were older, white, and non-Hispanic were more likely to receive multiple opioid prescriptions. Large relative increases in morbidity and mortality were documented, although base rates remained low. The percentage of individuals within the sample who experienced an overdose increased steadily from 0 in 2005 to 1.09% in 2016. Incidence of mortality increased from 0.12% of the sample to 1.39% in 2016. The proportion of individuals who received a medication for the treatment of opioid dependence increased from 0.06% in 2005 to 0.44% in 2016. Significantly increased risk of adverse outcomes was observed in patients receiving multiple opioid prescriptions, and in patients who were older, of minority race, received their first prescription in an outpatient clinic, and publicly insured or uninsured. Results add to the growing literature concerning opioid prescription rates over time. They also provide important information on potential additive risks of adverse outcomes when pediatric patients receive multiple opioid prescriptions.

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