Does adherence monitoring reduce controlled substance abuse in chronic pain patients?

Pain Physician. 2006 Jan;9(1):57-60.


Background: Opioids are used extensively for chronic pain management in the United States. The frequency of opioid use prior to presenting to interventional pain management settings and in interventional pain management settings has been shown to be above 90%. Given that controlled substance abuse and illicit drug use are prevalent phenomena, adherence monitoring of patients that are prescribed opioids is becoming common. Adherence monitoring is carried out by an appropriate history, periodic evaluation of appropriate intake of drugs, random drug testing, and pill counts. Crucial to adherence monitoring is an initial controlled substance agreement and repeated review of the terms of this agreement with on-going education. However, the effect of adherence monitoring on drug abuse is unclear.

Objective: To identify controlled substance abuse through implementation of the terms of a controlled substance agreement, including periodic review and monitoring outside the organization.

Study design: Prospective evaluation with historical controls.

Methods: Five hundred consecutive patients receiving prescription controlled substances were followed in a prospective manner. The evaluation consisted of a chart review to monitor controlled substance intake, with special attention to drugs obtained from outside the organization. Data collection for this purpose included information from records, pharmacies, referring physicians, and all the physicians involved in the treatment of the patient.

Results: Results from 500 consecutive patients were evaluated. Controlled substance abuse was seen in 9% of patients; overall, 5% of patients were obtaining controlled substances from other physicians, and 4% from illegal sources.

Conclusion: Adherence monitoring, including controlled substance agreements and various periodic measures of compliance was associated with a 50% reduction in opioid abuse.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid* / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Demography
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology*


  • Analgesics, Opioid