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Opioids for back pain patients: primary care prescribing patterns and use of services.

Deyo RA, Smith DH, Johnson ES, Donovan M, Tillotson CJ, Yang X, Petrik AF, Dobscha SK. Opioids for back pain patients: primary care prescribing patterns and use of services. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine : JABFM. 2011 Nov 1; 24(6):717-27.

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BACKGROUND: Opioid prescribing for noncancer pain has increased dramatically. We examined whether the prevalence of unhealthy lifestyles, psychologic distress, health care utilization, and co-prescribing of sedative-hypnotics increased with increasing duration of prescription opioid use. METHODS: We analyzed electronic data for 6 months before and after an index visit for back pain in a managed care plan. Use of opioids was characterized as "none," "acute" ( = 90 days), "episodic," or "long term." Associations with lifestyle factors, psychologic distress, and utilization were adjusted for demographics and comorbidity. RESULTS: There were 26,014 eligible patients. Of these, 61% received a course of opioids, and 19% were long-term users. Psychologic distress, unhealthy lifestyles, and utilization were associated incrementally with duration of opioid prescription, not just with chronic use. Among long-term opioid users, 59% received only short-acting drugs; 39% received both long- and short-acting drugs; and 44% received a sedative-hypnotic. Of those with any opioid use, 36% had an emergency visit. CONCLUSIONS: Prescription of opioids was common among patients with back pain. The prevalence of psychologic distress, unhealthy lifestyles, and health care utilization increased incrementally with duration of use. Coprescribing sedative-hypnotics was common. These data may help in predicting long-term opioid use and improving the safety of opioid prescribing.

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