Patients between 75 and 80 years old who take opioids have an increased risk of dementia, a study in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has found.
Stephen Z. Levine, Ph.D., of the University of Haifa in Israel and colleagues examined data from 91,307 older people in an Israeli HMO. People in the study were at least 60 years old and had no history of a dementia diagnosis or dementia medication in 2012, and they were followed up for incident dementia between January 2013 and October 2017. The researchers determined opioid exposure based on purchases of opioid medications and classified a person as exposed if the person’s purchase period covered at least 60 days within a 120-day interval.
During the follow-up, 3.1% of the people in the study had been exposed to opioids, and 5.8% of all subjects developed dementia. The researchers examined the relationship between opioid exposure and dementia in people who fell within four age groups: 60-70, 70-75, 75-80, and 80+ years. After accounting for age, sex, and comorbid health conditions, the researchers found an increased risk of dementia in those between 75 and 80. People in this group had a 1.39-fold greater risk of developing dementia compared with those in the same age group who were not exposed to opioids.
“The effect size for opioid exposure observed in the 75 to 80 age group is similar to other potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia, including body mass index and smoking,” Levine and colleagues wrote. “This suggests that opioid exposure from 75-80 years of age may be a clinically relevant modifiable dementia risk factor.
“Policymakers, caregivers, patients, and clinicians may wish to consider that opioid exposure [in individuals] aged 75 to 80 years appears to be associated with an increased dementia risk to balance the potential benefits and adverse side effects of opioid use,” the researchers concluded.
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “To Improve Safety in Older Patients, Consider Deprescribing.”
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