Original Research29 December 2015
A Cohort Study
    Author, Article, and Disclosure Information



    Nonfatal opioid overdose is an opportunity to identify and treat substance use disorders, but treatment patterns after the overdose are unknown.


    To determine prescribed opioid dosage after an opioid overdose and its association with repeated overdose.


    Retrospective cohort study.


    A large U.S. health insurer.


    2848 commercially insured patients aged 18 to 64 years who had a nonfatal opioid overdose during long-term opioid therapy for noncancer pain between May 2000 and December 2012.


    Nonfatal opioid overdose was identified using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, codes from emergency department or inpatient claims. The primary outcome was daily morphine-equivalent dosage (MED) of opioids dispensed from 60 days before to up to 730 days after the index overdose. We categorized dosages as large (≥100 mg MED), moderate (50 to <100 mg MED), low (<50 mg MED), or none (0 mg MED). Secondary outcomes included time to repeated overdose stratified by daily dosage as a time-varying covariate.


    Over a median follow-up of 299 days, opioids were dispensed to 91% of patients after an overdose. Seven percent of patients (n = 212) had a repeated opioid overdose. At 2 years, the cumulative incidence of repeated overdose was 17% (95% CI, 14% to 20%) for patients receiving high dosages of opioids after the index overdose, 15% (CI, 10% to 21%) for those receiving moderate dosages, 9% (CI, 6% to 14%) for those receiving low dosages, and 8% (CI, 6% to 11%) for those receiving no opioids.


    The cohort was limited to commercially insured adults.


    Almost all patients continue to receive prescription opioids after an overdose. Opioid discontinuation after overdose is associated with lower risk for repeated overdose.

    Primary Funding Source:

    Health Resources and Services Administration.


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