Pain is common among adults with traumatic brain injury (TBI), yet little data exist regarding prevalence of opioid use in this population. The objective of this retrospective cohort study was to evaluate the association between lifetime TBI exposure, opioid use, and pain in a nationally representative sample of 1022 adults aged 50+ who participated in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Our primary exposure was lifetime TBI history measured via the Ohio State University TBI Identification Method. We evaluated three alternate TBI exposures (years since most recent TBI, age at first TBI, and number of lifetime TBIs) in sensitivity analyses. We evaluated two outcomes: Recent opioid medication use, and moderate-to-severe pain measured over two HRS waves. We classified three pain groups (persistent, intermittent, and no pain). Prevalences of opioid use among individuals with and without TBI were 19.7% and 13.6%, respectively. After adjustment for age, sex, and race, individuals with TBI had a 52% increased risk for opioid use compared with individuals without TBI (relative risk = 1.52, 95% confidence interval: 1.11, 2.04). Individuals with recent TBI (1-10 years ago), first TBI after age 40+, and 2+ lifetime TBIs had greatest risk for opioid use. Compared with individuals without TBI, individuals with TBI had 4.9-times increased odds for persistent versus no pain, and 1.9-times increased odds of intermittent versus no pain. Persistent pain among adults with lifetime TBI is elevated compared with the general population, which may contribute to increased opioid use among persons with TBI, particularly those with recent injuries or multiple lifetime TBIs.
- prescription opioid use
- traumatic brain injury