Chronic noncancer pain rehabilitation with opioid withdrawal: comparison of treatment outcomes based on opioid use status at admission

Mayo Clin Proc. 2004 Jun;79(6):759-68. doi: 10.4065/79.6.759.


Objective: To study differences in treatment outcomes between patients with chronic noncancer pain taking vs those not taking maintenance opioids at admission to a pain rehabilitation program.

Patients and methods: A nonrandomized 2-group prepost design was used to compare 356 patients admitted to the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center from January 2002 to December 2002 at admission and discharge by opioid status at admission. Measures of pain severity, interference due to pain, perceived life control, affective distress, activity level, depression, and catastrophizing (an exaggerated negative mental set associated with actual or anticipated pain experiences) were used to compare opioid and nonopioid groups. The patients entered a 3-week intensive outpatient multidisciplinary pain rehabilitation program designed to improve adaptation to chronic noncancer pain. The program uses a cognitive-behavioral model and incorporates opioid withdrawal.

Results: More than one third of patients (135/356) were taking opioids daily at admission. At completion of the program, all but 3 of the 135 patients had successfully discontinued opioid treatment. No significant pretreatment differences were found between the opioid and nonopioid group regarding demographics, pain duration, treatment completion, or all outcome variables, including pain severity. Significant improvement was noted at discharge for all outcome variables assessed regardless of opioid status at admission.

Conclusion: Patients with symptomatically severe and disabling pain while taking maintenance opioid therapy can experience significant improvement in physical and emotional functioning while participating in a pain rehabilitation program that incorporates opioid withdrawal.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcotics / adverse effects
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / etiology*


  • Narcotics