Misuse of Prescribed Pain Medication in a Military Population—A Self-Reported Survey to Assess a Correlation With Age, Deployment, Combat Illnesses, or Injury?

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Abstract

Opioid misuse is a growing epidemic among the civilian and military communities. Five hundred prospective, anonymous surveys were collected in the emergency department waiting room of a military tertiary care hospital over 3 weeks. Demographics, medical and military characteristics were investigated for association with opioid use. Univariate logistic models were used to characterize the probability of misuse in relation to the demographic, medical, and military-specific variables. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and posttraumatic stress disorder were investigated within different age cohorts with adjustment for deployment. The opioid misuse rate disclosed by the subject was 31%. Subjects with TBI were less likely to misuse opioids. We found a trend among younger cohorts to have a higher likelihood for misusing opioids when diagnosed with TBI or posttraumatic stress disorder with history of deployment in the past 5 years. The most common form of misuse was using a previously prescribed medication for a new pain. Traumatic brain injury and/or enrollment in post-deployment recovery programs maybe protective against opioid misuse. Chronic opioid use among young soldiers maybe viewed as a weakness that could influence opioid misuse. Younger cohorts of active duty service members could be at higher risk for misuse. Efforts to enhance close monitoring of misuse should address these at-risk populations.

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