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Association between prescribed opioid dose and risk of motor vehicle crashes.

Quinn PD, Chang Z, Pujol TA, Bair MJ, Gibbons RD, Kroenke K, D'Onofrio BM. Association between prescribed opioid dose and risk of motor vehicle crashes. Pain. 2023 Apr 1; 164(4):e228-e236.

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Opioid-involved motor vehicle traffic fatalities have increased over the past 2 decades. However, the extent to which prescribed opioids increase the risk of motor vehicle crashes remains uncertain. This study used real-world healthcare claims data to examine the association between prescription opioid dose and motor vehicle crash risk. Using nationwide US commercial insurance claims data for 2010 to 2018, we identified 772,404 adults who received incident, noncancer opioid therapy. We examined associations between daily prescription opioid dose, calculated in morphine milligram equivalents (MME) from filled prescription claims, and risk of motor vehicle crashes, assessed as diagnoses of motor vehicle injuries in claims for emergency visits, inpatient hospitalizations, and ambulance transportation. We estimated associations using a within-individual design, which ruled out all time-stable confounding. We complemented the design with time-varying statistical adjustment for other pharmacotherapies and a negative control pain pharmacotherapy analysis (with incident cyclic antidepressant prescriptions). During 2,150,009 person-years of follow-up, there were 12,123 motor vehicle crashes (5.64 crashes per 1000 person-years). In within-individual comparisons, crash risk was greater during opioid prescription periods involving doses = 60 MME/day (odds ratio [OR], 3.86; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.54, 4.21), > 60 to 120 MME/day (OR, 5.46; 95% CI, 4.44, 6.73), and > 120 MME/day (OR, 3.45; 95% CI, 2.31, 5.15) than during off-treatment periods. The negative control analysis supported the specificity of the results to opioids rather than to other processes associated with pharmacologic pain management. These findings suggest that the receipt of prescription opioids, even at doses = 60 MME/day, is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.

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