Background Given the controversy around the effectiveness of opioid treatment for chronic pain and the lack of detailed guidance for prescribing opioids in older adults, the objectives of this study were to estimate the trajectories and predictors of opioid use in older adults. Methods Data were extracted from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (2005–2017). Group-based trajectory modeling was used to identify the patterns of opioid use (any or strong) among participants age 65+. We used multivariable logistic regression with backward selection to evaluate demographics and comorbidities as potential predictors of trajectory membership. Results Among 13,059 participants, four trajectories were identified for the use of both any opioids and strong opioids (minimal-users, incident chronic-users, discontinuing-users, and prevalent chronic-users). For any opioids, female sex (adjusted odds ratio = 1.23; 95% confidence interval = 1.03–1.46), black vs. white (1.47; 1.18–1.82), year of education (0.96; 0.94–0.99), type of residence (independent group vs. private: 1.77; 1.38–2.26, care facility vs. private: 1.89; 1.20–2.97), hypertension (1.44; 1.20–1.72), cardiovascular disease (1.30; 1.09–1.55), urinary incontinence (1.45; 1.19–1.78), dementia (0.73; 0.57–0.92), number of medications (1 to 4 vs. none: 0.48; 0.36–0.64, 5 or more vs. none: 0.67; 0.50–0.88), and antidepressant agent (1.38; 1.14–1.67) were associated with incident chronic-use vs. non-use. For strong opioids, female sex (1.27; 1.04–1.56), type of residence (independent group vs. private: 1.90; 1.43–2.53, care facility vs. private: 2.37; 1.44–3.90), current smoking (1.68; 1.09–2.60), hypertension (1.49; 1.21–1.83), urinary incontinence (1.45; 1.14–1.84), dementia (0.73; 0.55–0.97), number of medications (1 to 4 vs. none: 0.46; 0.32–0.65, 5 or more vs. none: 0.59; 0.42–0.83), and antidepressant agent (1.55; 1.24–1.93) were associated with incident chronic-use vs. non-use. Conclusion Given that chronic opioid use was more prevalent in participants who were more vulnerable (i.e., older age, with multiple comorbidities, and polypharmacy), further studies should evaluate the safety and efficacy of using opioids in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0210341
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Oh et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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