Chronic disease prevention could ease opioid crisis

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Preventing chronic disease could help curb the opioid epidemic, according to research from the University of Georgia.

The study is the first to examine the relationship between hospitalizations due to opioid misuse and chronic disease.

"When we look at the opioid crisis, most of the response has been to treat , making naloxone more available, for example. That's a good immediate intervention, but in the long run, we need to identify the underlying issues of the epidemic," said study author Janani Thapa, who studies chronic disease at UGA's College of Public Health.

When most talk about the risks of living with a chronic disease, doesn't make the list, but to Thapa, the association is obvious.

"Chronic disease is associated with pain. Pain is associated with opioid use," she said. "So, we thought, let's look at that and put some numbers behind the association."

One in four U.S. adults is living with at least one chronic disease, and many of these diseases are accompanied with chronic pain. Arthritis is one common example. Obesity is another.

That's why Thapa and her co-authors were particularly interested in the patterns of opioid-related hospitalizations among patients with conditions that were the most likely to be prescribed opioids, including asthma, arthritis, cancer, liver disease and stroke.

The researchers gathered inpatient data from a national sample of community hospitals, and they looked at the prevalence of chronic disease among patients who had been admitted for an opioid-related injury, from 2011 to 2015.

The results showed that over 90% of the opioid-related hospitalizations were among patients with two or more .

Thapa says the and health care fields need to be aware of the overlap between two of the country's growing epidemics and prioritize finding alternative, non-addictive strategies to managing the chronic pain.

"These aren't separate issues," said Thapa. "The numbers that we have make the case that hospitalization is happening because these patients are taking pain medications, and chronic disease is underlying many of these cases."

Thapa would like to see this study begin a conversation about allocating more of the resources pouring in to curb the toward chronic disease prevention.

"We are missing a key component, I think, if we aren't talking about preventing through chronic disease prevention," she said.

Explore further

The power of the brain to fight opioid addiction, treat chronic pain

More information: Janani Rajbhandari-Thapa et al. Opioid-Related Hospitalization and Its Association With Chronic Diseases: Findings From the National Inpatient Sample, 2011–2015, Preventing Chronic Disease (2019). DOI: 10.5888/pcd16.190169
Citation: Chronic disease prevention could ease opioid crisis (2019, December 5) retrieved 26 January 2020 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments