The vast majority of veterans who are taking opioids for pain are also being prescribed one or more psychiatric medications, according to a study in Psychiatry Research. And many of these drugs, the authors wrote, have harmful side effects “especially when combined.”
The Yale University School of Medicine researchers used national veterans health data for 2012. “Of the 328,398 Veterans who filled at least 10 opioid prescriptions, 77% also received psychotropics, of whom: 74% received antidepressants, 55% anxiolytics/sedatives/hypnotics, and 26% three or more classes of psychotropic medications,” they wrote.
“Veterans treated in a mental health clinic were prescribed more psychotropics and were more likely to have a documented psychiatric or medical indication than those treated solely in other settings,” the researchers added. “Since psychotropics and opioids can produce harmful side effects, especially when combined, and since they are likely prescribed by separate providers in different settings, coordinated consideration of the risks and benefits of co-prescribing these medications may be needed, along with further study of related adverse events.”
Barry, Declan T., Mehmet Sofuoglu, Robert D. Kerns, Ilse R. Wiechers, and Robert A. Rosenheck. “Prevalence and Correlates of Co-Prescribing Psychotropic Medications with Long-Term Opioid Use Nationally in the Veterans Health Administration.” Psychiatry Research 0, no. 0. Accessed March 28, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2015.03.006. (Abstract)