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Indicators of publicly funded prescription opioid use among persons with traumatic spinal cord injury in Ontario, Canada

Guan Q, Calzavara A, Cadel L, Hogan M, McCormack D, Patel T, Lofters AK, Hitzig SL, Guilcher SJT. J Spinal Cord Med. 2021; Oct 26 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI:

Objective — To describe the proportion and identify predictors of community-dwelling individuals with traumatic spinal cord injury (TSCI) who were dispensed ≥1 publicly funded opioid in the year after injury using a retrospective cohort study.

Setting — Ontario, Canada.

Participants, Interventions, Outcome Measures — We used administrative data to identify predictors of receiving publicly funded prescription opioids during the year after injury for individuals who were injured between April 2004 and March 2015. Our outcome was modeled using robust Poisson multivariable regression and we reported adjusted relative risks (aRR) with 95% confidence intervals.

Results — In our retrospective cohort of 934 individuals with TSCI who were eligible for the provincial drug program, 510 (55%) received ≥1 prescription opioid in the year after their injury. Most individuals were male (71%) and the median age was 63 years (interquartile range: 42-72). Being male (aRR 1.15, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01-1.31), having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (aRR 1.25, 95% CI 1.05-1.50), and using prescription opioids before injury (aRR 1.46, 95% CI 1.29-1.66) were significantly associated with receiving opioids in the year after TSCI. Short durations of hospital stay after injury were also identified as being a significant risk factor of outpatient opioid use (aRR = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.08-1.51) when compared to longer hospital stays.

Conclusion — This study presented evidence showing that most individuals eligible for Ontario's public drug program who experienced a TSCI used opioids in the year following their injury. Due to the paucity of research on this population and their potential for elevated risks of adverse events, it is important for additional studies to be conducted on opioid use in this population to understand short-term and long-term risks and benefits.