Research News Roundup: December 16, 2021

    Traditional Cigarette and Poly-Tobacco Use Are Associated with Medical Opioid Use in Rural Areas of the US

    Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021, doi:10.3390/ijerph182211864

    Authors: Mariaelena Gonzalez & Ashley Sanders-Jackson


    Introduction: Medical prescriptions for opioids are higher in rural areas of the US as compared to urban areas. Tobacco use may also play a role in this process. This analysis examines the association between differing types of tobacco use and medical opioid use.

    Methods: We analyze the relationship between tobacco product use and medical opioid use among the US general population living in rural (non-metropolitan) areas using the publicly available sample adult file 2019 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) (n = 5028). Tobacco use was classified into the following categories: only using cigarettes, only using e-cigarettes/vapes, only using cigars, only using smokeless tobacco, or using two or more of the following products. We used a binary logistic regression, controlling for individual differences.

    Results: Individuals who reported using only traditional cigarettes (and no other tobacco product, OR = 1.62, 95% CI: 1.31, 2.01), or who reported being a poly-tobacco users (OR = 2.13, 95% CI: 1.40, 3.22) had higher odds of medical opioid use in the last twelve months.

    Conclusion: Results suggest a link between tobacco use, particularly cigarette use and poly-tobacco use, and medical opioid use in rural communities. Clinical and structural level interventions need to be implemented in rural communities to reduce comorbid tobacco and opioid use.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Repeal of State Laws Permitting Denial of Health Claims Resulting from Alcohol Impairment: Impact on Treatment Utilization

    Journal: International Journal of Drug Policy, 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103530.

    Authors: Sunday Azagba, Lingpeng Shan, Mark Hall, Mark Wolfson & Frank Chaloupka


    Background: Many states in the U.S. still have Alcohol Exclusion Laws (AELs), which allow insurance companies to deny health claims resulting from alcohol impairment. There are concerns that this form of structural stigmatization affects alcohol treatment-seeking behaviors. We examined the effects of AEL repeal on treatment admissions for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

    Methods: Data on alcohol treatment admissions from 1992 to 2017 were obtained from the Treatment Episode Data Set. The state-level aggregate number of treatment admissions was derived, including healthcare professional referrals only, self-referrals only, and both self-referral and healthcare professional referrals. The number of treatment admissions by health insurance status (private, public, and uninsured) was also calculated. The study used a difference-in-differences (DID) quasi-experimental design.

    Results: The DID analysis showed that the number of admissions for alcohol treatment from healthcare professional referrals increased 16% in the AEL repeal states compared to states with AELs or that never had AELs (IRR=1.16, 95% CI=1.07, 1.25). These results were consistent for analysis by payment sources. In particular, treatment admissions from healthcare professional referrals for patients covered by private insurance increased about 38% in states with AEL repeal (IRR=1.38, 95% CI=1.17, 1.64) compared to states without AEL repeal. However, the findings were no longer significant when the state-specific time trends were taken into account.

    Conclusions: This study documented that AEL repeal may have had a significant impact on the number of treatment admissions for AUD. These findings suggest that AELs function as a barrier to treatment-seeking behavior.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Covid-19 Outcomes among Adult Patients Treated with Long-Term Opioid Therapy for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain in the USA: A Retrospective Cohort Study

    Journal: BMJ Open, 2021, doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056436

    Authors: Wen-Jan Tuan, Hannah Spotts, Aleksandra E Zgierska & Robert P Lennon


    Objective: Patients treated with long-term opioid therapy (LTOT) are known to have compromised immune systems and respiratory function, both of which make them particularly susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The objective of this study was to assess the risk of developing severe clinical outcomes among COVID-19 non-cancer patients on LTOT, compared with those without LTOT.

    Design and data sources: A retrospective cohort design using electronic health records in the TriNetX research database.

    Participants and setting: 418 216 adults diagnosed with COVID-19 in January–December 2020 from 51 US healthcare organisations: 9558 in the LTOT and 408 658 in the control cohort. They did not have cancer diagnoses; only a small proportion might have been treated with opioid maintenance for opioid use disorder.

    Results: Patient on LTOT had a higher risk ratio (RR) than control patients to visit an emergency department (RR 2.04, 95% CI 1.93 to 2.16) and be hospitalised (RR 2.91, 95% CI 2.69 to 3.15). Once admitted, LTOT patients were more likely to require intensive care (RR 3.65, 95% CI 3.10 to 4.29), mechanical ventilation (RR 3.47, 95% CI 2.89 to 4.15) and vasopressor support (RR 5.28, 95% CI 3.70 to 7.53) and die within 30 days (RR 1.96, 95% CI 1.67 to 2.30). The LTOT group also showed increased risk (RRs from 2.06 to 3.98, all significant to 95% CI) of more-severe infection (eg, cough, dyspnoea, fever, hypoxaemia, thrombocytopaenia and acute respiratory distress syndrome). Statistically significant differences in several laboratory results and other vital signs appeared clinically negligible.

    Conclusion: COVID-19 patients on LTOT were at higher risk of increased morbidity, mortality and healthcare utilisation. Interventions to reduce the need for LTOT and to increase compliance with COVID-19 protective measures may improve outcomes and reduce healthcare cost in this population. Prospective studies need to confirm and refine these findings.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    School Health Predictors of the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Substance Use and Developmental Risk and Resilience Factors

    Journal: Journal of Adolescent Health, 2021, doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.09.032

    Authors: Seth J. Prins, Sandhya Kajeepeta, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Charles C. Branas, Lisa R. Metsch & Stephen T. Russell


    Purpose: The purpose of the study is to establish prospective relationships among school mean levels of substance use, developmental risk and resilience factors, and school discipline.

    Methods: We linked 2003–2014 data from the California Healthy Kids Survey and the Civil Rights Data Collection, from more than 4,800 schools and 4,950,000 students. With lagged multilevel linear models, we estimated relationships among standardized school average levels of six substance use measures; eight developmental risk and resilience factors; and the prevalence of total discipline, out-of-school discipline, and police-involved discipline.

    Results: School mean substance use and risk/resilience factors predicted subsequent prevalence of discipline. For example, a one–standard deviation higher school mean level of smoking, binge drinking, and cannabis use was associated, respectively, with 16% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 14%, 18%), 18% (95% CI: 16%, 20%), and 21% (95% CI: 19%, 23%) higher subsequent prevalence of total discipline. A one–standard deviation higher mean level of community support and feeling safe in school was associated, respectively, with 21% (95% CI: 18%, 23%) and 9% (95% CI: 7%, 11%) lower total discipline. Higher violence/harassment was associated with 5% (95% CI: 4%, 7%) higher total discipline. Peer and home support, student resilience, and neighborhood safety were not associated with total discipline. Nearly all associations remained, attenuated, when we restricted to out-of-school and police-involved discipline.

    Conclusions: Schools with students who, on average, have higher substance use, less school and community support, and feel less safe in schools have a higher prevalence of school discipline and police contact. The public health implications of mass criminalization extend beyond criminal legal system settings and into schools.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Alcohol and the Brain

    Journal: Nutrients, 2021, doi: 10.3390/nu13113938

    Authors: David Nutt, Alexandra Hayes, Leon Fonville, Rayyan Zafar, Emily O. C. Palmer, Louise Paterson & Anne Lingford-Hughes


    Alcohol works on the brain to produce its desired effects, e.g., sociability and intoxication, and hence the brain is an important organ for exploring subsequent harms. These come in many different forms such as the consequences of damage during intoxication, e.g., from falls and fights, damage from withdrawal, damage from the toxicity of alcohol and its metabolites and altered brain structure and function with implications for behavioral processes such as craving and addiction. On top of that are peripheral factors that compound brain damage such as poor diet, vitamin deficiencies leading to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Prenatal alcohol exposure can also have a profound impact on brain development and lead to irremediable changes of fetal alcohol syndrome. This chapter briefly reviews aspects of these with a particular focus on recent brain imaging results. Cardiovascular effects of alcohol that lead to brain pathology are not covered as they are dealt with elsewhere in the volume.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.


    December 2021