Likelihood of Opioid Dependency If Opioid Given During an IBD Flare

According to a recent study (Full Link: MR Noureldn, PDR Higgins et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2019;49:74–83. Incidence and predictors of new persistent opioid use following inflammatory bowel disease flares treated with oral corticosteroids), and with the limitation of using an insurance database –Key Findings:

  • 5411 (35.8%) were opioid‐naïve patients (mean age 43.9 yrs) of which 35.0% developed persistent opioid use after the flare
  • Factors associated with new persistent opioid use include a history of depression (hazard ratio [HR] 1.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.13‐1.47), substance abuse (HR 1.36, 95% CI 1.2‐1.54), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (HR 1.17, 95% CI 1.04‐1.3), as well as, Crohn’s disease (HR 1.26, 95% CI 1.14‐1.4) or indeterminate colitis (HR 1.6, 95% CI 1.36‐1.88)

My take: As noted in previous blog (Increased Narcotic Usage in Pediatric Patients with IBD), opioid usage is an issue with pediatric IBD patients as well, particularly in those with associated depression and/or anxiety.

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Opiates, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Mortality

A recent retrospective study (NE Burr et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2018; 16: 534-41) with 3517 patient’s with Crohn’s disease (CD) and 5349 with ulcerative colitis (UC) examined the frequency of opioid prescriptions and the relationship to fatal outcomes.

Key findings:

  • Compared to 1990-93, the period of 2010-13 saw a sharp rise in the use of opiods in England: 10% compared to 30%.
  • Prescription of strong opioids (>3 prescriptions per calendar year) was associated with premature mortality: Hazard ratio 2.18 for CD and 3.3 for UC.

This study is in agreement with other data showing increasing use of opiate prescriptions worldwide for chronic noncancer pain (although there has been a drop in the past year).  As with other studies of patients with inflammatory bowel disease, this study shows an association between opioid use and mortality.

My take: Needing an opioid may be a marker for more severe disease. Whether the opioid use directly contributes to mortality remains unclear.


Narcotic Slippery Slope

In a recent article (NEJM 2017; 376: 663-73), ML Barnett show that opioid-prescribing patterns of emergency physicians may increase the risk of long-term use. By focusing on variation of prescribing practices among physicians at the same hospitals and with a sample size of ~380,000 patients, the authors provide convincing data that starting opioids even for an intended brief period can have lasting consequences. This study focused on medicare beneficiaries (average age ~68 yrs) who received narcotics from either higher-frequency or lower-frequency physician prescribers.

In their discussion, the authors state “if our results represent a causal relationship, for every 49 patients prescribed a new opioid in the emergency department who might not otherwise use opioids, 1 will become a long-term user.”

My  take: Starting a narcotic may be the first step in a long treacherous road.

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