Management of pain in addicted/illicit and legal substance abusing patients

Pain Pract. 2005 Mar;5(1):2-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-2500.2005.05102.x.


Approximately one-third of the American population experiences chronic pain. This varies in origin and severity. It also has been documented that billions of dollars are lost yearly because of health care expenses and missed workdays for chronic pain. Addiction is a primary, chronic, neurobiological disease with genetic, psychological and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. Addictive disorders occur in 3% to 26% of the general population, 19% to 255 of hospitalized patients and 40% to 60% in patients who sustained major trauma. More specifically 13.9 million of people living in USA over the age of 12 years are currently using illicit drugs. Although patients with chronic pain may be at an increased risk for addiction, the general population has demonstrated similar addiction rates. Unfortunately, patients who have chronic pain and addition will only have one of these aspects addressed. The purpose of this article is to clarify specific definition of substance use, abuse and addiction. As well as examining the role of pain physicians in evaluating and treating the chronic pain patients who have a history of substance abuse, and lastly outline strategy for assessing patients at risks and evaluating the most practical way of dealing with their chronic pain issues.