The Opioid Overdose Crisis

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Page last updated June 10, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

56. Likelihood That Young People with Diagnosed Mental Health Conditions Will be Put on Long Term Opioid Therapy

"Of the 1,000,453 opioid recipients (81.7%) with at least 6 months of follow-up, 51.1% were female, and the median age was 17 years (interquartile range, 16-18 years). Among these adolescents, the estimated cumulative incidence of LTOT [Long Term Opioid Therapy] after first opioid receipt was 1.1 (95% CI, 1.1-1.2) per 1000 recipients within 1 year, 3.0 (95% CI, 2.8-3.1) per 1000 recipients within 3 years, 8.2 (95% CI, 7.8-8.6) per 1000 recipients within 6 years, and 16.1 (95% CI, 14.2-18.0) per 1000 recipients within 10 years. The prevalence of mental health conditions and treatments in this sample is shown in eTable 3 in the Supplement.

"All mental health conditions and treatments were associated with higher rates of transitioning from a first opioid prescription to long-term therapy. Table 2 provides the estimated incidence of LTOT among those with and without mental health conditions and treatments.Adjusted relative increases in the rate of LTOT ranged from a factor of 1.73 for ADHD [Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder] (hazard ratio [HR], 1.73; 95% CI, 1.54-1.95) to approximately 4-fold for benzodiazepines (HR, 3.88; 95%CI, 3.39-4.45) and nonopioid SUDs [Substance Use Disorders] (HR, 4.02;95%CI, 3.48-4.65) to 6-fold for non benzodiazepine hypnotics (HR, 6.15; 95%CI, 5.01-7.55) and to nearly 9-fold for OUD [Opioid Use Disorder] (HR, 8.90; 95%CI, 5.85-13.54). In addition, relative to no condition, the number of condition types was also associated with higher LTOT rates (1 condition: HR, 2.21; 95% CI, 2.01-2.43; 2 or more conditions: HR, 4.01; 95% CI, 3.62-4.46).

"Given the strong associations for OUD, we explored other mental health factors and opioid receipt among those with preexisting OUD. These adolescents were more likely than
adolescents without OUD to have other mental health conditions and treatments (eTable 4 in the Supplement). For example, 76.1% of adolescents with OUD had other SUDs, 61.0% had depressive disorders, and 52.6% had received an SSRI [Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor]. During follow-up, those with preexisting OUD received opioid drugs similar to those received by adolescents without OUD, although the former were more likely to receive certain opioids (eg, oxycodone and tramadol; eTable 5 in the Supplement). Of those with preexisting OUD, 15.5% filled a prescription for OUD medication treatment during follow-up."

Quinn PD, Hur K, Chang Z, et al. Association of Mental Health Conditions and Treatments With Long-term Opioid Analgesic Receipt Among Adolescents. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(5):423–430. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5641
https://jamanetwork.com/journa...
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p...

57. Vivitrol and Risk of Opioid Overdose

"Vulnerability to Opioid Overdose
"After opioid detoxification, patients are likely to have reduced tolerance to opioids. VIVITROL blocks the effects of exogenous opioids for approximately 28 days after administration. However, as the blockade wanes and eventually dissipates completely, patients who have been treated with VIVITROL may respond to lower doses of opioids than previously used, just as they would have shortly after completing detoxification. This could result in potentially life-threatening opioid intoxication (respiratory compromise or arrest, circulatory collapse, etc.) if the patient uses previously tolerated doses of opioids. Cases of opioid overdose with fatal outcomes have been reported in patients who used opioids at the end of a dosing interval, after missing a scheduled dose, or after discontinuing treatment.

"Patients should be alerted that they may be more sensitive to opioids, even at lower doses, after VIVITROL treatment is discontinued, especially at the end of a dosing interval (i.e., near the end of the month that VIVITROL was administered), or after a dose of VIVITROL is missed. It is important that patients inform family members and the people closest to the patient of this increased sensitivity to opioids and the risk of overdose [see Patient Counseling Information (17)].

"There is also the possibility that a patient who is treated with VIVITROL could overcome the opioid blockade effect of VIVITROL. Although VIVITROL is a potent antagonist with a prolonged pharmacological effect, the blockade produced by VIVITROL is surmountable. The plasma concentration of exogenous opioids attained immediately following their acute administration may be sufficient to overcome the competitive receptor blockade. This poses a potential risk to individuals who attempt, on their own, to overcome the blockade by administering large amounts of exogenous opioids. Any attempt by a patient to overcome the antagonism by taking opioids is especially dangerous and may lead to life-threatening opioid intoxication or fatal overdose. Patients should be told of the serious consequences of trying to overcome the opioid blockade [see Patient Counseling Information (17)]."

Full Prescribing Information. Vivitrol (Naltrexone for Extended-Release Injectable Suspension). Revised December 2015.
https://www.vivitrol.com/conte...

58. War on Pain Doctors

"The government is waging an aggressive, intemperate, unjustified war on pain doctors. This war bears a remarkable resemblance to the campaign against doctors under the Harrison Act of 1914, which made it a criminal felony for physicians to prescribe narcotics to addicts. In the early 20th century, the prosecutions of doctors were highly publicized by the media and turned public opinion against physicians, painting them not as healers of the sick but as suppliers of narcotics to degenerate addicts and threats to the health and security of the nation."

Libby, Ronald T., "Treating Doctors as Drug Dealers The DEA’s War on Prescription Painkillers," CATO Institute (Washington, DC: June 2005), p. 21.
http://www.csdp.org/research/c...

59. Use of Cannabis as a Response to the Overdose Crisis

"The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that is at least partially driven by harms associated with POM [Prescription Opioid Medication] use. States are passing laws allowing use of MC [Medical Cannabis] and patients are using MC, but currently there is little understanding of how this influences POM use or of MC-related harms. This literature review provides preliminary evidence that states with MC laws have experienced reported decreases in POM use, abuse, overdose, and costs. However, existing evidence is limited by significant methodological shortcomings; so, general conclusions are difficult to draw.

"The use of MC as an alternative to POMs for pain management warrants additional empirical attention as a potential harm reduction strategy. NASEM (2017) recommends more clinical trials to elucidate appropriate MC forms, routes of administration, and combination of products for treating pain, but access to MC products to fully evaluate these questions is challenging due to federal regulations. However, the recently funded National Institutes of Health longitudinal study to research the impacts of MC on opioid use is a critical step in the right direction (National Institute of Health, 2017, Williams, 2017). MCs potential as an alternative pain treatment modality to help mitigate the major public health opioid crisis, could be a missed opportunity if data on safety, efficacy, and outcomes are not collected and explored. Health care practitioners, particularly nurses who are charged with ensuring patient comfort, have a vested interest in providing viable alternatives to POMs when appropriate, as part of an integrative approach to pain management, and must advocate for more research to better understand the public health implications and risks and benefits of such alternatives."

Vyas, Marianne Beare et al. The use of cannabis in response to the opioid crisis: A review of the literature. Nursing Outlook, January-February 2018, Volume 66, Issue 1, 56 - 65.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p...
www.nursingoutlook.org
www.nursingoutlook.org

60. Growth of Federal Oxycontin Investigations and Arrests

"DEA has increased enforcement efforts to prevent abuse and diversion of OxyContin. From fiscal year 1996 through fiscal year 2002, DEA initiated 313 investigations involving OxyContin, resulting in 401 arrests. Most of the investigations and arrests occurred after the initiation of the action plan. Since the plan was enacted, DEA initiated 257 investigations and made 302 arrests in fiscal years 2001 and 2002. Among those arrested were several physicians and pharmacists. Fifteen health care professionals either voluntarily surrendered their controlled substance registrations or were immediately suspended from registration by DEA. In addition, DEA reported that $1,077,500 in fines was assessed and $742,678 in cash was seized by law enforcement agencies in OxyContin-related cases in 2001 and 2002."

General Accounting Office, "Prescription Drugs: OxyContin Abuse and Diversion and Efforts to Address the Problem," GAO-04-110 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, Dec. 2003), p. 37.
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d...

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