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Opioid research on adolescents and young adults featured at annual meeting

Two opioid-related research projects from Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences were featured during AcademyHealth’s annual research meeting, which took place virtually from July 28 to Aug. 6, 2020, due to COVID-19.

Edeanya Agbese, MPH, research project manager in the Department of Public Health Sciences, gave a podium presentation titled “Adolescents and Young Adults Diagnosed with Opioid-Related Problems: Treatment of Pre-Existing Mental Health Conditions.”

Agbese shared highlights from the study, which found among privately-insured individuals 12 to 25 years old, many (55.2%) had a pre-existing mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety or other substance-use disorders. Findings show that the majority of patients (82.3%) received treatment for their mental health condition, but the frequency of the treatments were low.

The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, aims to inform clinicians, public health professionals, and policymakers about possible treatment gaps and opportunities that would be helpful in addressing the opioid crisis. For this research, Agbese was joined by Public Health Sciences’ Guodong Liu, PhD, and Douglas Leslie, PhD. Other researchers contributing to this study include the RAND Corporation’s Bradley Stein, MD, PhD; Andrew Dick, PhD; and Mark Sorbero, MS. Also contributing was Benjamin Druss, MD, MPH, from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

Also, Austin Cohrs, a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) student, gave a poster presentation at the event.

His work, “Trends in Opioid Prescriptions Prior to a Diagnosis of an Opioid Related Problem (ORP) Among Adolescents and Young Adults (AYAs),” focuses on more than 53,000 individuals and uncovers trends related to insurance claims. The study looks at two categories of insurance claims that were filed prior to the person’s diagnosis: Those that AYAs had for their own opioid prescription drugs, as well as claims that family members had for opioid prescription drugs.

The study includes data from 2006 to 2014 and illustrates that many AYAs are obtaining opioids via means other than a personal or family prescription. Findings show that 60% of AYAs did not have a personal prescription within one year prior to the diagnosis. While the proportion of AYAs with a personal prescription decreased over time, the proportion with a family prescription remained constant. Future research on opioid use among AYAs needs to better understand the alternative sources and types of opioids used, as well as the role state policies may have played in these trends.

For this study, Cohrs was joined by Douglas Leslie, PhD, Chief of the Health Services and Behavioral Research Division in the Department of Public Health Sciences.

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