Baseline Characteristics From a New Longitudinal Cohort of Patients With Noncancer Pain and Chronic Opioid Use in the United States

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The journal of pain : official journal of the American Pain Society


Retrospective cohort studies have consistently observed that long-term prescription opioid use is a risk factor for new major depressive episodes. However, prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings and establish evidence for causation. The Prescription Opioids and Depression Pathways cohort study is designed for this purpose. The present report describes the baseline sample and associations between participant characteristics and odds of daily versus nondaily opioid use. Second, we report associations between participant characteristics and odds of depression, dysthymia, anhedonia, and vital exhaustion. Patients with noncancer pain were eligible if they started a new period of prescription opioid use lasting 30 to 90 days. Participants were 54.8 (standard deviation ± 11.3) years of age, 57.3% female and 73% White race. Less than college education was more common among daily versus nondaily opioid users (32.4% vs 27.3%; P = .0008), as was back pain (64.2% vs 51.3%; P < .0001), any nonopioid substance use disorder (12.8% vs 4.8%; P < .0001), and current smoking (30.7% vs 18.4% P < .0001). High pain interference (50.9% vs 28.4%; P < .0001) was significantly associated with depression, as was having more pain sites (6.9 ± 3.6 vs 5.7 ± 3.6; P < .0001), and benzodiazepine comedication (38.2% vs 23.4%; P < .0001). High pain interference was significantly more common among those with anhedonia (46.8% vs 27.4%; P < .0001), and more pain sites (7.0 ± 3.7 vs 5.6 ± 3.6; P < .0001) were associated with anhedonia. Having more pain sites (7.9 ± 3.6 vs 5.5 ± 3.50; P < .0001) was associated with vital exhaustion, as was back pain (71.9% vs 56.8%; P = .0001) and benzodiazepine comedication (42.8% vs 22.8%; P < .0001). Patients using prescription opioids for noncancer pain have complex pain, psychiatric, and substance use disorder comorbidities. Longitudinal data will reveal whether long-term opioid therapy leads to depression or other mood disturbances such as anhedonia and vital exhaustion.

PERSPECTIVE: This study reports baseline characteristics of a new prospective, noncancer pain cohort study. Risk factors for adverse opioid outcomes were most common in those with depression and vital exhaustion and less common in dysthymia and anhedonia. Baseline data highlight the complexity of patients receiving long-term opioid therapy for noncancer pain.

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ePub ahead of print