Youth with mental illness, substance abuse history at risk for opioid abuse

HERSHEY, PA – Opioid abuse is a devastating problem in the United States and a leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults. Pennsylvania State College of Medicine researchers found that young people with certain mental health problems and with a history of substance abuse may have an increased risk of being diagnosed with opioid use disorder (OUD) in a national study. Based on these results, the researchers emphasize the importance of early intervention and education of adolescents about the dangers of opioid abuse.

Investigators analyzed data from 4,926 privately insured patients, aged 12 to 25, who were clinically diagnosed with opioid or opioid poisoning in 2017. They found that in the two years before their diagnosis, the majority of patients (60.6%) received medical treatment for a mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, or substance use disorder (SUD) involving alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. Women were more likely than men to receive mental health treatment, the researchers said.

Since many patients have been treated for health conditions unrelated to opioids prior to their diagnosis of TOD, the researchers said there are opportunities for health care providers to screen, intervene and educate patients about opioids and opioid poisoning.

“Our results highlight the frequency with which mental health and other SUD problems have been identified prior to a diagnosis of opioid or opioid poisoning,” said co-author Edeanya Agbese, research project leader at the Department of Public Health Sciences and at the Center for Applied Studies in Health Economics. . “Taking advantage of these opportunities to intervene and develop more effective screening tools could reduce the risk of future opioid abuse among young people. “

“Since many adults with substance abuse problems report using substances for the first time in adolescence, early intervention could have a significant impact on the opioid epidemic,” said the co-author. Douglas leslie, professor of public health sciences and director of Center for Applied Studies in Health Economics.

The researchers said doctors could screen for risky behaviors and implement early prevention and intervention strategies by targeting teens, young adults and their families. According to the researchers, it may also be beneficial for health care providers to discuss treatment options with families and improve access to naloxone, a drug used in emergencies to treat patients who have an opioid overdose.

Bradley Stein and Andrew Dick of RAND Corporation; Benjamin Druss of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University; and Rosalie Pacula of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California contributed to this research.

This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (grant R01DA047396). Penn State researchers do not disclose any relevant conflicts of interest.

Read the full study in the Journal of Addition Medicine.

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