Differences in Mexican Americans’ Prevalence of Chronic Pain and Co-Occurring Analgesic Medication and Substance Use Relative to Non-Hispanic White and Black Americans: Results from NHANES 1999–2004

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Abstract

Objective. Little is known about the burgeoning Mexican American (MA) population’s pain experience.

Methods. Using 1999–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, prevalence of chronic pain, analgesic medication use, and substance use were examined among MA, non-Hispanic White (NHW), and non-Hispanic Black (NHB) respondents. Logistic and linear regression models examined racial/ethnic differences in: 1) chronic pain prevalence among all respondents, 2) location and number of pain sites among respondents with chronic pain, and 3) analgesic medication and substance use among respondents with chronic pain.

Results. Compared to NHWs and NHBs, MAs were less likely to report any chronic pain. Among respondents with chronic pain, MAs had higher odds of reporting headache, abdominal pain, and a greater number of pain sites than NHWs. Compared to NHWs, MAs with chronic pain had lower odds of reporting past-month analgesic medication and COX-2 inhibitor use. MAs with chronic pain had lower odds of being a current cigarette smoker and heavy alcohol drinker but had similar street drug/cocaine use relative to NHWs.

Conclusions. Results suggest that: 1) MAs are less likely to develop chronic pain than NHWs, 2) MAs with chronic pain report greater headache and abdominal pain than NHWs, and 3) MAs with chronic pain are less likely to use analgesic medications and other substances compared to NHWs. These results suggest that providers should consider taking extra time to discuss analgesic medications with MAs. Future investigations should examine reasons underlying these racial/ethnic differences in chronic pain, as well as differences in the use of other substances, such as marijuana.

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