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Predictors of opioid-related death during methadone therapy

Leece P, Cavacuiti C, Macdonald EM, Gomes T, Kahan M, Srivastava A, Steele L, Luo J, Mamdani MM, Juurlink DN; Canadian Drug Safety Effectiveness Research Network. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2015; 57:30-5. Epub 2015 Apr 15.


The researchers aimed to examine pharmacologic, demographic and medical comorbidity risk factors for opioid-related mortality among patients currently receiving methadone for an opioid use disorder. They researchers conducted a population-based, nested case-control study linking healthcare and coroner’s records in Ontario, Canada, from January 31, 1994 to December 31, 2010. The researchers included social assistance recipients receiving methadone for an opioid use disorder. Within this group, cases were those who died of opioid-related causes. For each case, the researchers identified up to 5 controls matched on calendar quarter. The primary analysis examined the association between use of psychotropic drugs (benzodiazepines, antidepressants or antipsychotics) and opioid-related mortality. Secondary analyses examined the associations between baseline characteristics, health service utilization, comorbidities and opioid-related mortality. Among 43,545 patients receiving methadone for an opioid use disorder, the researchers identified 175 (0.4%) opioid-related deaths, along with 873 matched controls. Psychotropic drug use was associated with a two-fold increased risk of opioid-related death (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 2.0; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2 to 3.5). Specifically, benzodiazepines (adjusted OR 1.6; 95% CI 1.1 to 2.5) and antipsychotics (adjusted OR 2.3; 95% CI 1.5 to 3.5) were independently associated with opioid-related death. Other associated factors included chronic lung disease (adjusted OR 1.7; 95% CI 1.2 to 2.6), an alcohol use disorder (adjusted OR 1.9; 95% CI 1.2 to 3.2), mood disorders (adjusted OR 1.8; 95% CI 1.0 to 3.2), and a history of heart disease (adjusted OR 5.3; 95% CI 2.0 to 14.0). Psychotropic drug use is associated with opioid-related death in patients receiving methadone. Mindfulness of these factors may reduce the risk of death among methadone recipients.

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Keywords: Drug therapy Drugs (psychotherapeutic) Opioids

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