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A new study concludes teenagers and young adults with mental health disorders are more likely to be prescribed opioids for chronic pain, and more likely to become long-term opioid users, compared with their peers who don’t have a mental health disorder.

Teens and young adults with mental health disorders are 2.4 times more likely to become long-term users of opioids, HealthDay reports. The researchers defined long-term use as using the drugs for more than 90 days within a six-month period, with no gap in usage of more than 30 days.

The study included data from more than 62,000 teens and young adults up to age 24. Long-term use of opioids was more common among males, older youth and those living in poorer communities, with more white residents, the researchers report in the Journal of Adolescent Health. They were treated for back pain, neck pain, headache, and arthritis/joint pain.

“There are a number of reasons adolescents and young adults with mental health issues are more likely to become long-term users of opioids,” study author Dr. Laura Richardson, of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, said in a news release. “Depression and anxiety might increase pain symptoms and lead to longer treatment, and physicians may see depressed patients as being more distressed and may be willing to treat pain symptoms over a longer period of time.”


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