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Illicit drug use higher among people with chronic low back pain: study

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Photo: Ugurhan Betin/iStockphoto

Minneapolis – People with chronic low back pain are more likely to use illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed the survey responses of more than 5,000 adults between the ages of 20 and 69 from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. About 13 percent of the adults reported that they had been experiencing low back pain for at least three months, meeting the study’s definition of a chronic condition.

Fourteen percent of respondents said they had used illicit drugs within the past 30 days. Of those:

  • 46.5 percent reported using marijuana
  • 22 percent said they had used cocaine
  • 9 percent used methamphetamine
  • 5 percent used heroin

Respondents who used illicit drugs at any point also were more likely to have an active prescription for opioids.

“As we face a prescription opioid addiction epidemic, careful assessment of illicit drug use history may aid prescribing decisions,” lead author Dr. Anna Shmagel and her colleagues wrote in the study.

The study was published online in the journal Spine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that overdose deaths from opioids have nearly quadrupled since 1999, and over half of the more than 28,000 fatalities in 2014 involved prescription opioids.

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