Opioids for chronic noncancer pain: prediction and identification of aberrant drug-related behaviors: a review of the evidence for an American Pain Society and American Academy of Pain Medicine clinical practice guideline

J Pain. 2009 Feb;10(2):131-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2008.10.009.


Optimal methods to predict risk of aberrant drug-related behaviors before initiation of opioids for chronic noncancer pain and to identify aberrant behaviors after therapy is initiated are uncertain. We systematically reviewed published literature identified through searches of Ovid MEDLINE and the Cochrane databases through July 2008. Diagnostic test characteristics and accompanying confidence intervals were calculated with data extracted from the studies. Four prospective studies evaluated diagnostic accuracy of risk prediction instruments. Two higher-quality derivation studies found that high scores on the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain (SOAPP) Version 1 and the Revised SOAPP (SOAPP-R) instruments weakly increased the likelihood for future aberrant drug-related behaviors (positive likelihood ratios [PLR], 2.90 [95% CI, 1.91 to 4.39] and 2.50 [95% CI, 1.93 to 3.24], respectively). Low scores on the SOAPP Version 1 moderately decreased the likelihood for aberrant drug-related behaviors (negative likelihood ratio [NLR], 0.13 [95% CI, 0.05 to 0.34]) and low scores on the SOAPP-R weakly decreased the likelihood (NLR, 0.29 [95% CI, 0.18 to 0.46]), but estimates are too imprecise to determine if there is a difference between these instruments. One lower-quality study found that categorization as high risk using the Opioid Risk Tool strongly increased the likelihood for future aberrant drug-related behaviors (PLR, 14.3 [95% CI, 5.35 to 38.4]) and classification as low risk strongly decreased the likelihood (PLR, 0.08 [95% CI, 0.01 to 0.62]). Nine studies evaluated monitoring instruments for identification of aberrant drug-related behaviors in patients on opioid therapy. One higher-quality derivation study found higher scores on the Current Opioid Misuse Measure (COMM) weakly increased the likelihood of current aberrant drug-related behaviors (PLR, 2.77 [95% CI, 2.06 to 3.72]) and lower scores weakly decreased the likelihood (NLR, 0.35 [95% CI, 0.24 to 0.52]). In 8 studies of other monitoring instruments, diagnostic accuracy was poor, results were difficult to interpret due to methodological shortcomings, or standard diagnostic test characteristics were not reported. Definitions for aberrant drug-related behaviors were not standardized across studies and did not account for seriousness of identified behaviors. No reliable evidence exists on accuracy of urine drug screening, pill counts, or prescription drug monitoring programs; or clinical outcomes associated with different assessment or monitoring strategies.

Perspective: Evidence on prediction and identification of aberrant drug-related behaviors is limited. Although several screening instruments may be useful, evidence is sparse and primarily based on derivation studies, and methodological shortcomings exist in all studies. Research that performs external validation, uses standardized definitions for clinically relevant aberrant drug-related behaviors, and evaluates clinical outcomes associated with different assessment and monitoring strategies is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Conduct Disorder / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / complications
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid