Evaluation of spin in the abstracts of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies on opioid use disorder

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Background: Spin, or the inappropriate formatting of information to emphasize certain outcomes, should not be present in research. This study focuses on identifying and characterizing the presence of spin in systematic review and meta-analysis abstracts that focus on the treatment of opioid use disorder. Methods: Search strategies were developed to identify studies pertaining to the treatment of opioid use disorder. The studies were then screened by two authors. These qualifying studies were then evaluated for the presence of spin within their abstracts by two trained authors. These studies were also evaluated by the AMSTAR-2 standards to evaluate the quality of the qualifying systematic reviews by two trained reviewers. Results: The sample in this study included 113 systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Spin was present in 20 of these studies (20/113, 17.7%). The most common spin form was spin type 3 (6/20, 30%), followed by types 5 and 9 (both 4/20, 20%), type 6 (3/20, 15%), type 7 (2/20, 10%), and type 8 (1/20, 5%). The remaining spin types 1, 2, and 4 were not present in the sample. Of the 113 included studies, the most common intervention type was pharmacologic (93/113, 82%). No significant association was found between the quality of a systematic review and the presence of spin. Conclusions: Findings in this study show positive trends in prevalence of five forms of spin evaluated in abstracts of systematic reviews and meta-analyses looking at treatments for opioid use disorder. However, study quality had no significant association with the presence of spin. Misrepresentation of results, or spin, may alter a clinician’s perceptions about treatment efficacies. Therefore, increasing physician awareness of spin may improve clinical decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-551
Number of pages9
JournalSubstance Abuse
Issue number4
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Opioid use
  • spin
  • systematic review


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