Chronic Narcotic Use Is High Among Kids with IBD

Chronic narcotic was reported more than twice as widespread in pediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), compared with children free from this disease.

Chronic narcotic was reported more than twice as widespread in pediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), compared with children free from this disease.

Published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the research study primarily compared chronic narcotic use within a population of 4,344 IBD-afflicted children (below the age of 18) and 21,720 children in the general population. The study found that 5.6% of IBD children had at least 3 prescriptions for a narcotic medication during a 2-year period, compared with 2.3% of children without IBD.

Jessie P. Buckley, PhD, MPH, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, commented, “Chronic narcotic use is common in pediatric IBD patients, particularly among those with anxiety and depression. Describing the characteristics of children with IBD using long-term narcotics is important to define the magnitude of this problem in the pediatric population and to identify potential strategies or interventions to reduce narcotic use.”

Narcotics usage in adults was long found to increase mortality, serious infection, sleep disorders, pneumonia, and psychiatric disorders. Similarly, in children, chronic treatment with narcotics could lead to malnutrition, opportunistic infections, and hepatosplenic lymphoma, and reduced growth.

It was important to note that compared with the general population, chronic narcotic use was reported significantly higher for pediatric IBD patients with psychological impairment than those without. Other strong variables associated with the chronic use included older age, increased health-care utilization, fractures, and psychological impairment. Furthermore, the study results highlighted the correlation between use of narcotics with greater health-care utilization and its potential role as a marker for severe disease.

While narcotics could be considered a viable option for temporary pain relief for IBD patients, experts do not suggest long-term narcotic use among children with IBD because of GI side effects, disease complications, and the potential for dependency.