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Examining the initial prescription leading to long-term opioid use at a military medical treatment facility

Micheal A. Massoud, DO, Ronald J. Markert, PhD, James D. Dizmang, MD, Joshua N. Scott, DO, Kathryn M. Burtson, MD


Objective: Chronic pain is common in the military, and over a quarter of active-duty military members have received a prescription for opioids. This study reviewed the initial opioid prescription among those who became future long-term users at an Air Force base in the United States and reports the characteristics of the provider and patient.

Methods: Our single-center retrospective study evaluated initial opioid prescriptions leading to long-term use within the military’s electronic medical record at a large military medical treatment facility including active-duty patients and veterans. Of the 3,701 charts reviewed, 348 patients met the inclusion criteria for the long-term opioid use.

Results: Older patient groups received a higher initial amount of opioids than younger groups (p = 0.007). Primary care outpatient clinics started 43 percent of initial long-term opioid users, while surgical specialties contributed to 34 percent of the sample. In our study, 35.9 percent of the long-term opioid users were given their first opioid prescription within 30 days of an operation. Veterans or those separated from the military were less likely to have a behavioral disorder than active duty or family members.

Conclusions: Our sample mirrored the civilian population in terms of age, gender, and most common pain diagnosis. We found that older patients initially received a higher dispensed amount compared to our younger patients. There was a concerning trend for surgical patients to develop into chronic opioid users.


chronic pain, initial opioid prescription, chronic opioid use, primary care, surgical subspecialties

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