Psychiatric and pain characteristics of prescription drug abusers entering drug rehabilitation

J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2006;20(2):5-13.


There has been intense interest in the problem of prescription drug abuse on the parts of health professionals, law enforcement, the media, and the general public. Clinicians not only need to know how to assess risk but also what drugs are being diverted most in their region. We conducted a prospective survey of prescription drug abusers entering a treatment facility in central Kentucky. Participants (n = 109) were enrolled and completed a structured clinical interview and prescription drug abuse survey. The prescription drug abusers assessed in the study had a mean age of 30.95 years (SD = 10.21), were comprised of 75 men (69%) and 34 women (31%), and were mostly Caucasian (98%). The majority (84%) stated that they had legitimately been given a prescription for opioids for pain at some point from a physician and 61% reported chronic pain concerns. The most commonly abused drugs were hydrocodone-containing formulations (78%) and oxycodone-containing products (69%), while products containing methadone (23%) or fentanyl (7%) were abused much less frequently. Most respondents (91%) stated that they had purchased prescription opioids from a street dealer at least once and the majority (80%) had altered the delivery system of the prescription drug by chewing, snorting, or using i.v. administration. Implications for pain management are discussed, focusing on the need for clinicians treating chronic pain to more thoroughly assess patients for their risk of abuse and addiction before starting an opioid regimen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Male
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Smoking
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers*