Associations Between Opioid Prescribing Patterns and Overdose Among Privately Insured Adolescents


Little is known about the risk for overdose after opioid prescription. We assessed associations between the type of opioid, quantity dispensed, daily dose, and risk for overdose among adolescents who were previously opioid naive.


Retrospective analysis of 1 146 412 privately insured adolescents ages 11 to 17 years in the United States captured in the Truven MarketScan commercial claims data set from January 2007 to September 2015. Opioid overdose was defined as any emergency department visit, inpatient hospitalization, or outpatient health care visit during which opioid overdose was diagnosed.


Among our cohort, 725 participants (0.06%) experienced an opioid overdose, and the overall rate of overdose events was 28 events per 100 000 observed patient-years. Receiving ≥30 opioid tablets was associated with a 35% increased risk for overdose compared to receiving ≤18 tablets (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.35; 95% confidence interval: 1.05–1.73; P = .02). Daily prescribed opioid dose was not independently associated with an increased risk for overdose. Tramadol exposure was associated with a 2.67-fold increased risk for opioid overdose compared to receiving oxycodone (adjusted HR = 2.67; 95% confidence interval: 1.90–3.75; P < .0001). Adolescents with preexisting mental health conditions demonstrated increased risk for overdose, with HRs ranging from 1.65 (anxiety) to 3.09 (substance use disorders).


One of 1600 (0.06%) previously opioid-naive adolescents who received a prescription for opioids experienced an opioid overdose a median of 1.75 years later that resulted in medical care. Preexisting mental health conditions, use of tramadol, and higher number of dispensed tablets (>30 vs <18) were associated with an increased risk of opioid overdose.

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