The Opioid Epidemic and Primary Headache Disorders: A Nationwide Population-Based Study

The opioid epidemic has been linked to several other health problems, but its impact on headache disorders has not been well studied. We performed a population-based study looking at the prevalence of opioid use in headache disorders and its impact on outcomes compared to non-abusers with headaches.

We performed a cross-sectional analysis of the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (years 2008-2014) in adults hospitalized for primary headache disorders (migraine, tension-type headache [TTH], and cluster headache [CH]) using the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes. We performed weighted analyses using the chi-square test, Student’s t-test, and Cochran-Armitage trend test. Multivariate survey logistic regression analysis with weighted algorithm modelling was performed to evaluate morbidity, disability, and discharge disposition. Among US hospitalizations during 2013-2014, regression analysis was performed to evaluate the odds of having opioid abuse among headache disorders.

A total of 5,627,936 headache hospitalizations were present between 2008 and 2014 of which 3,098,542 (55.06%), 113,332 (2.01%), 26,572 (0.47%) were related to migraine, TTH, and CH, respectively. Of these headache hospitalizations, 128,383 (2.28%) patients had abused opioids. There was a significant increase in the prevalence trend of opioid abuse among patients with headache disorders from 2008 to 2014. The prevalence of migraine (63.54% vs. 54.86%), TTH (2.29% vs. 2.01%), and CH (0.59% vs. 0.47%) was also higher among opioid abusers than non-abusers (p<0.0001). Opioid abusers with headaches were more likely to be younger (43 years old vs. 50 years old), men (30.17% vs. 24.78%), white (80.83% vs. 73.29%), Medicaid recipients (30.15% vs. 17.03%), and emergency admissions (85.4% vs. 78.51%) as compared to opioid non-abusers with headaches (p<0.0001). Opioid abusers with headaches had higher prevalence and odds of morbidity (4.06% vs. 3.70%; adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 1.48; 95% CI: 1.39-1.59), severe disability (28.14% vs. 22.43%; aOR: 1.58; 95% CI: 1.53-1.63), and discharge to non-home location (17.13% vs. 18.41%; aOR: 1.35; 95% CI: 1.30-1.40) as compared to non-abusers. US hospitalizations in years 2013-2014 showed the migraine (OR: 1.61; 95% CI: 1.57-1.66), TTH (OR: 1.43; 95% CI: 1.22-1.66), and CH (OR: 1.34; 95% CI: 1.01-1.78) were linked with opioid abuse.

Through this study, we found that the prevalence of migraine, TTH, and CH was higher in opioid abusers than non-abusers. Opioid abusers with primary headache disorders had higher odds of morbidity, severe disability, and discharge to non-home location as compared to non-abusers.