Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses among patients with cancer

Vikram Jairam, Daniel X. Yang, James B. Yu, Henry S. Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with cancer may be at risk of high opioid use due to physical and psychosocial factors, although little data exist to inform providers and policymakers. Our aim is to examine overdoses from opioids leading to emergency department (ED) visits among patients with cancer in the United States. Methods: The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Emergency Department Sample was queried for all adult cancer-related patient visits with a primary diagnosis of opioid overdose between 2006 and 2015. Temporal trends and baseline differences between patients with and without opioid-related ED visits were evaluated. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify risk factors associated with opioid overdose. All statistical tests were two-sided. Results: Between 2006 and 2015, there were a weighted total of 35 339 opioid-related ED visits among patients with cancer. During this time frame, the incidence of opioid-related ED visits for overdose increased twofold (P <. 001). On multivariable regression (P <. 001), comorbid diagnoses of chronic pain (odds ratio [OR] 4.51, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 4.13 to 4.93), substance use disorder (OR = 3.54, 95% CI = 3.28 to 3.82), and mood disorder (OR = 3.40, 95% CI = 3.16 to 3.65) were strongly associated with an opioid-related visit. Patients with head and neck cancer (OR = 2.04, 95% CI = 1.82 to 2.28) and multiple myeloma (OR = 1.73, 95% CI = 1.32 to 2.26) were also at risk for overdose. Conclusions: Over the study period, the incidence of opioid-related ED visits in patients with cancer increased approximately twofold. Comorbid diagnoses and primary disease site may predict risk for opioid overdose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)938-943
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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