Link Between Pain and Opioid Use Disorders Discovered

Individuals with moderate or severe pain more likely to develop a prescription opioid use disorder.

Findings from a recent study suggest that patients who experience moderate or severe pain have a 41% increased risk of developing prescription opioid use disorders than those who do not.

Researchers in a study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry examined data from a survey about alcohol and substance use, which included 34,000 people who filled out an initial survey, and another 3 years later. The study asked participants about pain, prescription opioid use disorders, and family history of drug, alcohol, and behavioral problems.

The researchers found that individuals who reported pain and prescription opioid use disorders were more likely to have mood or anxiety disorders, a family history of alcohol use disorder, or recent substance abuse.

“These findings indicate that adults who report moderate or more severe pain are at increased risk of becoming addicted to prescription opioids,” said senior author of the report Mark Olfson, MD, MPH. “In light of the national opioid abuse epidemic, these new results underscore the importance of developing effective, multimodal approaches to managing common painful medical conditions.”

Researchers also found that males and young participants had a higher risk of prescription opioid use disorder, but females and older participants reported pain more often.

“In evaluating patients who present with pain, physicians should also be attentive to addiction risk factors such as age, sex and personal or family history of drug abuse,” Dr Olfson concluded. “If opioids are prescribed, it is important for clinicians to monitor their patients carefully for warning signs of opioid addiction.”