The effect of post-traumatic stress disorder on the risk of developing prescription opioid use disorder: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III

Ahmed N Hassan, Bernard Le Foll, Sameer Imtiaz, Jürgen Rehm
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2017 October 1, 179: 260-266

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of baseline post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and each symptoms cluster on the risk of developing opioid use disorder (OUD) in those exposed to opioid painkillers and to assess the effect of comorbid PTSD and OUD on functioning, OUD severity, and treatment seeking compared with individuals with OUD only.

METHODS: We obtained data from 4025 individuals exposed to opioid painkillers from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III. We matched individuals with baseline PTSD with individuals without PTSD on demographics, developmental background, family history, personalities, and exposure to stressful life events with propensity score methodology. We controlled for clinical diagnoses and other risk factors that may have occurred after PTSD onset. Quality of life was assessed with the SF-12; the number of diagnostic criteria met indicated OUD severity.

RESULTS: Baseline PTSD predicted OUD after controlling for matching variables and other risk factors, including baseline mood/anxiety disorders and other substance use disorders (odds ratio[OR]: 1.58; 95% confidence interval[CI]: 1.14-2.17; p=0.02). Among individuals with PTSD, arousal/reactivity cluster predicted OUD. Individuals with comorbid PTSD and OUD had lower mean scores on the SF-12 scale and greater severity of OUD than individuals with OUD. There were no differences in help-seeking.

CONCLUSION: Baseline PTSD increases the risk of developing OUD after exposure to opioid painkillers. Clinicians should screen for PTSD diagnosis and arousal/reactivity symptoms prior to prescribing painkillers. Integrated treatments are strongly recommended for patients with this dual diagnosis.

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