Long-term opioid use does not increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Opioid use is not associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, shows a recent study from the University of Eastern Finland. Researchers did not find any risk neither for long-term use nor for higher cumulative doses. Opioids are powerful pain relieving drugs that act on the nervous system.

Published in Pain Medicine, the study is the most extensive one conducted on the topic so far. A previous study from the US reported an association between high cumulative doses of opioids and an increased risk of dementia, but the Finnish study does not confirm this finding.

However, several adverse effects are 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. Opioid use may also lead to addiction or tolerance to pain-relieving effects.

Opioid use was compared between Finnish persons with Alzheimer’s disease and their control persons without the disease. The study was part of the nationwide register-based MEDALZ study and included 70,718 persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in Finland during 2005-2011, as well as 282,862 control persons.

For further information, please contact:

Heidi Taipale, Senior Researcher, School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland, heidi.taipale(at)uef.fi

Sirpa Hartikainen, Professor, School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland, sirpa.hartikainen(at)uef.fi

Research article:

Taipale H, Hamina A, Lampela P, Tanskanen A, Tiihonen J, Karttunen N, Tolppanen AM, Hartikainen S. Is Alzheimer’s disease associated with previous opioid use? Pain Medicine, published online August 28, 2017. DOI: 10.1093/pm/pnx210

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Long-term #opioid use does not increase risk of #Alzheimers @UniEastFinland study finds.

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The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.

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