Cessation of self-reported opioid use and impacts on co-occurring health conditions

BACKGROUND: Among veterans in care reporting opioid use, we investigated the association between ceasing opioid use on subsequent reduction in report of other substance use and improvements in pain, anxiety, and depression.

METHODS: Using Veterans Aging Cohort Study survey data collected between 2003 and 2012, we emulated a hypothetical randomized trial (target trial) of ceasing self-reported use of prescription opioids and/or heroin, and outcomes including unhealthy alcohol use, smoking, cannabis use, cocaine use, pain, and anxiety and depressive symptoms. Among those with baseline opioid use, we compared participants who stopped reporting opioid use at the first follow-up (approximately 1 year after baseline) with those who did not. We fit logistic regression models to estimate associations with change in each outcome at the second follow-up (approximately 2 years after baseline) among participants with that condition at baseline. We examined two sets of adjusted models that varied temporality assumptions.

RESULTS: Among 2473 participants reporting opioid use, 872 did not report use, 606 reported use, and 995 were missing data on use at the first follow-up. Ceasing opioid use was associated with no longer reporting cannabis (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=1.82, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.10, 3.03) and cocaine use (AOR=1.93, 95% CI 1.16, 3.20), and improvements in pain (AOR=1.53, 95% CI 1.05, 2.24) and anxiety (AOR=1.56, 95% CI 1.01, 2.41) symptoms.

CONCLUSION: Cessation of opioid misuse may be associated with subsequent cessation of other substances and reduction in pain and anxiety symptoms, which supports efforts to screen and provide evidence-based intervention where appropriate.

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Full citation:
Scheidell JD, Townsend T, Ban KF, Caniglia EC, Charles D, Edelman EJ, Marshall BDL, Gordon AJ, Justice AC, Braithwaite RS, Khan MR (2023).
Cessation of self-reported opioid use and impacts on co-occurring health conditions
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 242, 109712. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2022.109712. PMCID: PMC10108375.