New opioid use by older adults with dementia has been associated with a significantly increased risk of death, including an 11-times higher risk within the first 2 weeks of initiating opioid use, according to a study released on Tuesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The study included 75,471 adults at least 65 years of age who were diagnosed with dementia between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2018. Among the study population, 42% redeemed a prescription for an opioid at a pharmacy.
Study participants were tracked for 180 days after their first opioid prescription. Researchers also tracked a group of older adults with dementia who did not receive an opioid prescription during the same period. The study produced the following findings:
Among dementia patients who initiated their first opioid prescription, 33.1% died within 180 days compared to 6.4% of those without an opioid prescription.
The greatest discrepancy between patient groups studied came in the first 14 days after opioid initiation, where those who began taking an opioid faced an elevenfold risk of death over those who did not.