Opioid prescribing and use in the Military Health System: A framework synthesis, FY2016-FY2021

Cathaleen Madsen, Jessica Korona-Bailey*, Miranda Lynn Janvrin, Andrew J. Schoenfeld, Tracey Pcrossed D.Sign©rez Koehlmoos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Opioid misuse is a nationwide issue and is of particular concern with regard to military readiness. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act charges the Military Health System with greater oversight of opioid use and mitigation of misuse. Methods: We synthesized published articles using secondary analysis of TRICARE claims data, a nationally representative database of 9.6 million beneficiaries. We screened 106 articles for inclusion and identified 17 studies for data abstraction. Framework analysis was conducted, which assessed prescribing practices, patient use, and optimum length of opioid prescriptions after surgery, trauma, and common procedures, as well as factors leading to sustained prescription opioid use. Results: Across the studies, sustained prescription opioid use after surgery was low overall, with <1% of opioid-naïve patients still receiving opioids more than 1 year after spinal surgery or trauma. In opioid-exposed patients who had undergone spine surgery, sustained use was slightly lower than 10%. Higher rates of sustained use were associated with more severe trauma and depression, as well as with prior use and initial opioid prescriptions for low back pain or other undefined conditions. Black patients were more likely to discontinue opioid use than were White patients. Conclusions: Prescribing practices are well correlated with degree of injury or intensity of intervention. Sustained prescription opioid use beyond 1 year is rare and is associated with diagnoses for which opioids are not the standard of care. More efficient coding, increased attention to clinical practice guidelines, and use of tools to predict risk of sustained prescription opioid use are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1133-1137
Number of pages5
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • framework synthesis
  • Military Health System
  • military medicine
  • opioids


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