Subst Use Misuse. 2020 Aug 7:1-8. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2020.1797807. Online ahead of print.
Patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) experience high rates of chronic pain, and have a high burden of mental health comorbidities shown to negatively influence health. There is limited research on substance use among individuals with SCD. Objective: The aim of this study is to measure the prevalence of substance use in patients with SCD and determine whether psychosocial or clinical risk factors are associated with substance use. Methods: This study was conducted as part of an observational study of patients with SCD at two academic medical centers. We asked participants (ages 15 and older) about the lifetime use of heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana/cannabis. We measured stigma, depression, urban life stress, pain catastrophizing, and asked about a brief pain inventory. Results: Of 258 participants, 24.9% (n = 71) reported substance use. Marijuana was the most common substance used (22.5%; n = 65). The mean depressive score met criteria for positive screen amongst individuals who reported a history of substance use (mean 10.7(5.76)). Adjusting for age, sex, yearly family income, and education level, odds of substance use increased with higher levels of internalized stigma (aOR: 1.38; 95% CI: 1.07, 1.77; p = 0.012); higher urban life stress scores (aOR 1.06; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.12; p = 0.017) and higher pain catastrophizing scores (aOR: 1.03; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.06; p = 0.008). Conclusions: Among individuals with SCD who endorse substance use, there was markedly more stress and distress with higher rates of depression and poorer quality of life. Interventions focusing on improving distress tolerance and coping to not only pain, but also social stressors, might reduce substance use.