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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: International Study Finds Significant Association Between Opioid Use and Falls, Fall Injuries and Fractures in Older Adults

Dr. Aya Yoshikawa, a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Population Health and Aging, systematically reviewed the current body of literature on opioid use and fall risk for older adults. The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Dr. Yoshikawa and others searched literature in nine databases looking for studies that covered opioid use, falls and fall injuries or fractures in populations of older adults. They analyzed 36 studies from various countries, with sample sizes ranging from 124 to more than 400,000, in a wide array of settings including several in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

“Our systematic review found an association between opioid use and falls, fall injuries and fractures. Opioid use and fracture risk showed the strongest association, and higher daily opioid medication dosages may be attributed a greater risk for broken bones,” Dr. Yoshikawa said.

This study builds on the current body of knowledge by focusing on specific fall-related outcomes, which vary in severity in terms of outcome and recovery for the older adult. Additionally, finding an association between dosage and fall risk provides valuable insight for future research about opioid doses and user durations, especially in cases of long-term use.

The association between opioid use and fall-related injuries among older adults also points to a need for better clinical guidelines on prescribing opioids and managing possible health consequences. This study highlights the importance of alternative pain treatments, better opioid education and fall prevention programs for older adults. A clearer understanding of opioid use and fall risk and the guidance and resources needed by older adult patients could help improve health outcomes for the aging population.

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