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Comparing Outpatient Opioids, High-Risk Prescribing, and Opioid Poisoning Between Transgender and Cisgender Veterans: A Cross-sectional Analysis

      Introduction

      Transgender veterans have a high prevalence of substance use disorder and physical and mental-health comorbidities, which are associated with prescription opioid use and overdose risk. This study compares receipt of outpatient opioids, high-risk opioid prescribing, and opioid poisoning between transgender and cisgender (i.e., nontransgender) veterans.

      Methods

      A secondary analysis of Veterans Health Administration health record data from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 was conducted in 2021. Transgender veterans (n=9,686) were randomly matched to 3 cisgender veterans (n=29,058) on the basis of age and county. Using the same matching criteria, a second cohort was created of all transgender veterans and a matched sample of cisgender veterans who were prescribed an outpatient opioid (n=7,576). Stratified Cox proportional hazard regression measured the RR of each prescription outcome and opioid poisoning.

      Results

      Transgender veterans had a 20% higher risk of being prescribed any outpatient opioid than cisgender veterans (adjusted RR=1.20, 95% CI=1.13, 1.27). Transgender and cisgender veterans who were prescribed an opioid did not have different risks of high-risk prescribing: overlapping opioid prescriptions (adjusted RR=0.93, 95% CI=0.85, 1.02), daily dose >120 morphine milligram equivalents (adjusted RR=0.86, 95% CI=0.66, 1.10), or overlapping opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions (adjusted RR=1.05, 95% CI=0.96, 1.14). Overall, transgender veterans had more than twice the risk of opioid poisoning than cisgender veterans (RR=2.76, 95% CI=1.57, 4.86). The risk of opioid poisoning did not differ between transgender and cisgender veterans who were prescribed an opioid (RR=1.09, 95% CI=0.56, 2.11).

      Conclusions

      Transgender veterans had a greater risk of being prescribed an outpatient opioid than cisgender veterans but did not have different risks of high-risk opioid prescribing.
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