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Social media as an emerging tool for reducing prescription opioid misuse risk factors.

Young SD, Lee SJ, Perez H, Gill N, Gelberg L, Heinzerling K. Social media as an emerging tool for reducing prescription opioid misuse risk factors. Heliyon. 2020 Mar 1; 6(3):e03471.

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Interventions are urgently needed to reduce prescription opioid misuse risk factors, including anxiety and concomitant use of sedatives. However, only a limited number of randomized controlled opioid intervention trials have been conducted. We sought to determine whether an online behavior change/support community, compared to a control Facebook group, could reduce anxiety and opioid misuse among chronic pain patients. 51 high-risk non-cancer chronic pain patients were randomly assigned to either a Harnessing Online Peer Education (HOPE) peer-led online behavior change intervention or a control group (no peer leaders) on Facebook for 12 weeks. Inclusion criteria were: 18 years or older, a UCLA Health System patient, prescribed an opioid for non-cancer chronic pain between 3 and 12 months ago, and a score of = 9 on the Current Opioid Misuse Measure (COMM) and/or concomitant use of benzodiazepines. Participation in the online community was voluntary. Patients completed baseline and follow-up assessments on Generalized Anxiety Disorder screener (GAD-7), COMM, and frequency of social media discussions about pain and opioid use. Compared to control group participants, intervention participants showed a baseline-to-follow-up decrease in anxiety, and more frequently used social media to discuss pain, prescription opioid use, coping strategies, places to seek help, and alternative therapies for pain. Both groups showed a baseline to follow-up decrease in COMM score. Preliminary results support the use an online community interventions as a low-cost tool to decrease risk for prescription opioid misuse and its complications.

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