Original Study| Volume 22, ISSUE 12, P2593-2599.e4, December 2021

State Variation in Chronic Opioid Use in Long-Term Care Nursing Home Residents



      Policies and regulations on opioid use have evolved from being primarily state-to federally based. We examined the trends and variation in chronic opioid use among states and nursing homes.


      Retrospective cohort study.

      Setting and Participants

      We used the nursing home Minimum Data Set and Medicare claims from 2014 to 2018 and included long-term care nursing home residents from each year who had at least 120 days of consecutive stay.


      Chronic opioid use was defined as use for ≥90 days. Three-level hierarchical logistic regression models (resident, nursing home, state) were constructed to estimate intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) at the state level and at the nursing home level. The ICC shows the proportion of variation in chronic opioid use that is attributable to states or nursing homes. All models were constructed separately for each calendar year and controlled for resident, nursing home, and state characteristics.


      We included 3,245,714 nursing home stays from 2014 to 2018, representing 1,502,131 unique residents. The stays ranged from 676,413 in 2014 to 594,874 in 2018, with residents contributing a maximum of 1 stay per year. Chronic opioid use among nursing home residents declined from 14.1% in 2014 to 11.4% in 2018. The variation (ICC) in chronic opioid use among states declined from 2.5% in 2014 to 1.7% in 2018. In contrast, the variation (ICC) among nursing homes increased from 5.6% in 2014 to 6.5% in 2018.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Variation in chronic opioid use declined by one-third at the state level but not at the nursing home level. National guidelines on opioid use and federal policies on opioid use may have contributed to reducing state-level variation in chronic opioid use.


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