Opioid dosing among patients with 3 or more years of continuous prescription opioid use before and after the CDC opioid prescribing guideline

Joanne Salas, Xue Li, Hong Xian, Mark D. Sullivan, Jane C. Ballantyne, Patrick J. Lustman, Richard Grucza, Jeffrey F. Scherrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Opioid doses declined after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) opioid prescribing guideline was published. However, it is unknown if dose declines occurred in patients with ≥ 3 years of continuous opioid use. Methods: Optum® de-identified integrated Electronic Health Record and claims data were used to create an adult sample (n = 400) with continuous opioid use for 18 months before and after the guideline publication. Based on the morphine milligram equivalent (MME) distribution at Month 1, patients were categorized into 1–50, 51–100, 101–200, and >200 mg baseline MME. Interrupted time series analysis using segmented mixed linear regression models stratified on baseline MME estimated average monthly changes in MME in the 18-months pre- and post-guideline, before and after adjusting for time-varying pain conditions, psychiatric disorders and benzodiazepine prescription. Results: Patients were 59.6 (SD±11.8) years of age, 55.8% female and 84.0% white race. For 1–50 MME, monthly dose slope was significantly (p<0.0001) flatter post-guideline (pre b = 0.34 MME/month vs. post b = 0.12 MME/month). For 51–100 MME, the pre- and post-guideline dose slopes did not significantly differ (pre b = 0.60 MME/month vs. post b = 0.27 MME/month). For 101–200 MME, post-guideline dose slope was significantly (p<0.0001) steeper and decreasing post-guideline (pre b = 0.11 MME/month vs. post b= -1.33 MME/month). Among >200 MME, dose decreased in the pre- and post-guideline periods, and post-guideline decline was significantly (p<0.0001) steeper (b= -1. 86 MME/month vs. b= -4.13 MME/month). Conclusions: Among patients on multiyear opioid therapy, the CDC guideline was associated with a modest change in dosing, except for patients on very high doses. The guideline was not associated with decreasing MME among lower-dose, long-term users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103308
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • dependence
  • epidemiology
  • guidelines
  • opioids
  • retrospective cohort


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