A study in the September issue of Medical Care reports that the use of opioid pain relievers by Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients is increasing, and found wide variations in regional patterns of prescribing. The percentage of these beneficiaries who were chronic users of opioids rose from 21.4 percent in 2007 to 23.1 percent in 2011. Chronic opioid users received numerous opioid prescriptions—from 6 to 13 per year—typically prescribed by multiple doctors.
Some type of musculoskeletal condition was present in 94 percent of chronic opioid users. The researchers also noted the high rate of depression, 38 percent, among patients taking chronic opioids. The authors voiced concern that “…the common and increasing chronic use we observed seems inconsistent with the uncertainties surrounding such prescribing practice.” They call for the development of better practices that balance risk observance with high quality pain management for this patient population. Read a news story, with link to the journal article, here.