No reference material exists on the scope of long-term problems in novel spinal pain opioid users. In this study, we evaluate the prevalence and long-term use of prescribed opioids in patients of the Spinal Pain Opioid Cohort.
The setting was an outpatient healthcare entity (Spine Center). Prospective variables include demographics, clinical data collected in SpineData, and The Danish National Prescription Registry. Patients with a new spinal pain episode lasting for more than two months, aged between 18 and 65 years, who had their first outpatient visit. Based on the prescription of opioids from 4 years before the first spine center visit to 5 years after, six or more opioid prescriptions in a single 1-year interval fulfilled the main outcome criteria Long-Term Opioid Therapy (LTOT).
Overall, of 8356 patients included in the cohort, 4409 (53%) had one or more opioid prescriptions in the registered nine years period. Of opioid users, 2261 (27%) were NaiveStarters receiving their first opioid prescription after a new acute pain episode; 2148(26%) PreStarters had previously received opioids. The prevalence of LTOT in PreStarters/NaiveStarters was 17.2%/11.2% in their first outpatient year. Similar differences between groups were seen in all follow-up intervals. In the last follow-up year, LTOT prevalence in Prestarters/NaiveStarters was 12.5%/7.0%.
Previous opioid treatment-i.e., before a new acute spinal pain episode and referral to a Spine Center-doubled the risk of LTOT 5 years later. The results underscore clinicians’ obligation to carefully and individually weigh the benefits against the risks of prescribing opioid therapy.
Diagnostic: individual cross-sectional studies with consistently applied reference standard and blinding.