Opioid use is not associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), according to a study published in the journal Pain Medicine.
The study is the most extensive one conducted on the topic so far. A previous study from the United States reported an association between high cumulative doses of opioids and an increased risk of dementia. However, the current study does not confirm this finding.
Heidi Taipale, PhD, School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland, and colleagues investigated whether opioid use, duration of use, and cumulative dose are associated with an increased risk of AD.
A Finnish nationwide nested case-control study, MEDALZ, included 70,718 individuals with AD and up to four age-, sex-, and region of residence-matched comparison individuals.
The researchers analysed data from all Finnish persons with a clinically verified AD diagnosis (n = 70,718) during 2005 to 2011. The mean age of the individuals was 80 years and 65% were women.
Opioid use was not associated with an increased risk of AD (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 1.00; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.98-1.03).
Neither longer duration of use (cumulative use for >365 days: adjusted OR = 1.02; 95% CI, 0.96-1.08) nor high cumulative doses (>90 TSDs: adjusted OR = 1.02; 95% CI, 0.98-1.07) of opioids was associated with risk of AD.
However, several adverse effects were related to opioid use, such as drowsiness and reduced alertness, and for this reason, opioid use should be restricted to the most severe pain conditions only.
“Although opioid use was not associated with an increased risk of AD, further studies should be performed to assess the safety of long-term opioid use in terms of other cognitive effects,” the authors concluded.