Does prescription opioid use by one household member increase risk of prescribed use in others?

December 11, 2017

Bottom Line: Living in a household with a prescription opioid user may be associated with increased risk of prescription opioid use by other household members.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Millions of opioid prescriptions are dispensed each year in the United States and unused opioids stored in household medicine cabinets are opportunities for drug sharing. However, whether prescription opioid use by one household member is associated with prescription opioid use in other household members is unknown.

Who and When: Claims data for commercial insurance beneficiaries sharing a health plan from 2000 to 2014

What: Outpatient pharmacy dispensing of a prescription opioid vs prescription NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) started by a household member (exposure); new dispensing by an outpatient pharmacy of a prescription opioid for another household member (outcome)

How (Study Design): This is an observational study. Researchers are not intervening for purposes of the study and cannot control natural differences that could explain study findings.

Authors: Marissa J. Seamans, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and coauthors

Results: The one-year risk of prescription opioid use was an absolute 0.71 percent higher among people in households where another person had an opioid prescription compared with households with an NSAID prescription.

Study Limitations: The increase in risk of opioid use was small, and factors the researchers did not or could not measure might explain it.

Study Conclusions: Living in a household with a prescription opioid user may increase risk of prescription opioid use. Opioid prescribing decisions may need to consider the context within which the medications will be used and the potential risk of subsequent opioid initiation by other people in a household.
For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.


Editor's Note: The article contains conflict of interest and funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information.

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