Appalachian Kentucky was at the epicenter of the prescription opioid epidemic in the early 2000's. As we enter the third decade of the epidemic, patterns have begun to emerge as people who use drugs (PWUD) transition from use of opioids to other drugs. The purpose of this analysis was to examine longitudinal changes in methamphetamine use in an ongoing cohort of rural people who use drugs (PWUD) in Appalachian Kentucky. All but five of the cohort participants (N = 503) reported nonmedical prescription opioid use (NMPOU) at baseline and those 498 are included in this longitudinal analysis encompassing eight waves of data (2008–2020). Past 6-month use of methamphetamine was the dependent variable. Given the correlated nature of the data, mixed effects logistic regression was utilized to examine changes in methamphetamine use over time. Significant increases in methamphetamine use were observed over the past decade in this cohort of PWUD, especially in recent years (2017–2020). Prevalence of recent use at baseline and each of the follow-up visits was as follows: 9.4, 5.6, 5.0, 5.4, 8.1, 6.8, 6.9, and 33.1%, respectively (p < 0.001). On the contrary, significant reductions in NMPO and heroin use were observed in the same time period. The odds of methamphetamine use at the most recent visit were 25.8 times greater than at baseline (95% CI: 14.9, 44.6) and 52.6% of those reporting methamphetamine use reported injecting the drug. These results provide further evidence of “twin epidemics” of methamphetamine use among NMPOU. While problematic on several fronts, of particular concern is the lack of effective treatment options for methamphetamine use disorder. As policies around the opioid epidemic continue to evolve, particular attention should be paid to the surge in stimulant use in opioid-endemic areas.
Although medical research has addressed the clinical management of chronic opioid users, little is known about how operational interventions shortly after opioid initiation can impact a patient’s likelihood of long-term opioid use. Using a nationwide U.S. database of medical and pharmaceutical claims, we investigate the care delivery process at the most common entry point to opioid use: the primary care setting. For patients who return to primary care for a follow-up appointment within 30 days of opioid initiation, we ask who should revisit and potentially revise the opioid-based treatment plan: the initial prescriber (provider concordance) or an alternate clinician (provider discordance)? First, using a fully controlled logistic model, we find that provider discordance reduces the likelihood of long-term opioid use 12 months after opioid initiation by 31% (95% Confidence Interval: [18%, 43%]). Both the instrumental variable analysis technique and propensity-score matching (utilizing the minimum-bias estimator approach) account for omitted variable bias and indicate that this is a conservative estimate of the true causal effect. Second, looking at patient activities immediately after the follow-up appointment, we find that this long-term reduction is at least partially explained by an immediate reduction in opioids prescribed after the follow-up appointment. Third, the data suggest that the benefit associated with provider discordance remains significant regardless of whether the patient’s initial prescriber was their regular primary care provider or another clinician. Overall, our analysis indicates that systematic, operational changes in the early stages of managing new opioid patients may offer a promising, and hitherto overlooked, opportunity to curb the opioid epidemic. This paper was accepted by David Simchi-Levi, healthcare management.
In the March 2021 issue of the journal Pharmacoepidemiology Drug Safety, an article by K. Bykov et al. was published, which contains an analysis of the use of opioid and non-opioid analgesics in US clinics in the period 20072017. According to the authors, the frequency of use of drugs in this group does not tend to decrease, despite the previously announced opioid epidemic in the USA. In Russia, the problem of the emergence of opioid dependence due to the perioperative use of drugs of this group is of little relevance. The existing legal restrictions on the prescription of opioid analgesics minimize this risk. But these same limitations make the idea of opioid-free analgesia very attractive in our country.
State-level all-payer claims databases (APCDs) are a possible new public health surveillance tool, but their reliability is unclear. We compared Colorado’s APCD with other state-level databases for use in monitoring the opioid epidemic (Colorado Hospital Association and Colorado’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database for 2010–2017), using descriptive analyses comparing quarterly counts/rates of opioid-involved inpatient and emergency department visits and counts/rates of 30-day opioid fills between databases. Utilization is lower in the Colorado APCD than the other databases for all outcomes but trends are parallel and consistent between databases. State APCDs hold promise for researchers, but they may be better suited to individual-level analyses or comparisons of providers than for surveillance of public health trends related to addiction.