Epidemiology of regular prescribed opioid use: results from a national, population-based survey

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2008 Sep;36(3):280-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.10.003. Epub 2008 Jul 10.


Chronic pain occurs commonly and accounts for significant suffering and costs. Although use of opioids for treatment of chronic pain is increasing, little is known about patients who use opioids regularly. We report data from the second wave of the Healthcare for Communities survey (2000-2001), a large, nationally representative household survey. We compared regular users of prescription opioids to nonusers of opioids and calculated the percentage of individuals within a given demographic or disease state that reported chronic opioid use. Approximately 2% of the 7,909 survey respondents reported use of opioid medications for at least a month, which the Healthcare for Communities survey defined as "regular use." Opioid users were more likely than nonusers to report high levels of pain interference with their daily lives and to rate their health as fair or poor. Arthritis and back pain were the most prevalent chronic, physical health conditions among users of opioids, with 63% of regular users of opioids reporting arthritis and 59% reporting back pain. The majority of regular users of opioids had multiple pain conditions (mean=1.9 pain conditions). Regular opioid users appear to have an overall lower level of health status and to have multiple, chronic physical health disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Data Collection*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Utilization Review*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Opioid