Population-based study on the all-cause and cause-specific risks of mortality among long-term opioid analgesics users without cancer in Taiwan

Po Feng Lee, Chung Yi Li, Yen Chin Liu, Chang Ta Chiu, Wen Hsuan Hou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


(1) Background: The prevalence of opioid use in Taiwan increased by 41% between 2002 and 2014. However, little is known regarding the risk of mortality among long-term opioid analgesics users who do not have cancer. This study investigated this mortality risk with an emphasis on the calendar year and patients’ age and sex. (2) Methods: This retrospective cohort study included 12,990 adult individuals without cancer who were long-term users of opioid analgesics and were randomly selected from the data set of Taiwan’s National Health Insurance program from 2000 to 2012. They were then followed up through 2013. Information on the underlying causes of death was retrieved from the Taiwan Death Registry. Age, sex, and calendar year-standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) of all-cause and cause-specific mortality were calculated with reference to those of the general population. (3) Results: With up to 14 years of follow-up, 558 individuals had all-cause mortality in 48,020 person-years (cumulative mortality: 4.3%, mortality rate: 11.62 per 1000 person-years). Compared with the general population, the all-cause SMR of 4.30 (95% confidence interval (95% CI): 3.95–4.66) was significantly higher: it was higher in men than in women, declined with calendar year and age, and was significantly higher for both natural (4.15, 95% CI: 3.78–4.53) and unnatural (5.04, 95% CI: 3.88–6.45) causes. (4) Conclusions: Long-term opioid analgesics use among individuals without cancer in Taiwan was associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality. The notably increased mortality in younger adults warrants attention. Strategies to reduce long-term opioid analgesics use, especially their overuse or misuse, are in an urgent need.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1402
JournalHealthcare (Switzerland)
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Mortality
  • Prescription opioids
  • Standardized mortality ratio
  • Underlying cause of death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Health Policy
  • Health Information Management
  • Leadership and Management


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