Opioid Use Generally Moderate in OEF, OIF, OND Veterans

by U.S. Medicine

April 10, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, AR — With continuing concern about opioid use in veterans, especially those serving in Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF and OND), a new study provided a detailed analysis of the issue.

The article in the journal Pain looks at opioid use among OEF/OIF/OND veterans from FY09 to FY12.1

Researchers from the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, both in Little Rock, and colleagues used information from three data repositories from the VHA to describe demographic, clinical, and medication characteristics associated with opioid use among OEF/OIF/OND veterans and among those with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Results indicated that about 23% of all OEF/OIF/OND veterans, including 35% of those with TBI, received any opioid medications. The review found that most received moderate doses ranging from 26-30mg morphine equivalent dose (MED) daily. Median days of opioid use for all OEF/OIF/OND veterans were 30-40 days.

Factors associated with chronic use in both groups included young age, male gender, white race, being married and living in rural areas, according to the report. Certain conditions were strongly associated with chronic use, including a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.22; major depressive disorder, OR of 1.14, and tobacco use disorder, OR of 1.18. Very strongly associated was back pain with an OR of 2.50.

Study authors noted that, as pain severity increased, the odds of chronic opioid use also increased:

  • Mild pain (OR=3.76),
  • Moderate pain (OR=6.80), or
  • Severe pain (OR=8.49).

“Opioid use among OEF/OIF/OND veterans is characterized by moderate doses that are used over relatively long periods of time by a minority of veterans,” researchers concluded.

1: Hudson TJ, Painter JT, Martin B, Austen MA, et. al. Pharmacoepidemiologic analyses of opioid use among OEF/OIF/OND veterans. Pain. 2017 Feb 11. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000874. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 28195856.


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