Health

Long-Term Painkiller Use Linked to Higher Death Risk Among HIV-Positive Individuals

This April 12, 2011 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows an H9 T cell, blue, infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), yellow. (AP Photo/NIAID)
This April 12, 2011 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows an H9 T cell, blue, infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), yellow. (AP Photo/NIAID)

 

(The Body Pro) – Long-term opioid use conferred a 40% higher death risk in a prospective study of U.S. veterans with or without HIV. The heightened risk ran to 46% in veterans with HIV compared with 25% in those without HIV. Long-term benzodiazepine use also inflated death risk in this population.

Prescription of opioid analgesics and benzodiazepines, sometimes together, is on the rise in the U.S. Researchers at Yale University and other institutions noted that many patients do not benefit from long-term opioids, which often cause side effects. Long-term benzodiazepines for anxiety and chronic insomnia also carry risks, the authors observed, and could be replaced by safer drugs. Opioid overdose represents a public health crisis in the U.S., they added, while prescription opioids and benzodiazepines may contribute to mortality through myriad mechanisms, including falls, motor vehicle accidents and respiratory infections.

The study, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, analyzed data on 64,602 U.S. veterans. To get a better understanding of how long-term (≥ 90-day) opioid and/or benzodiazepine use affect all-cause mortality in people with and without HIV, the investigators conducted a prospective study of the Veterans Aging Cohort Study-Virtual Cohort (VACS-VC) in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. VACS-VC matches HIV-positive and negative veterans 1:2 by age, sex, race/ethnicity and study site.

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