Pain and motives for use among non-treatment seeking individuals with prescription opioid dependence

Am J Addict. 2013 Sep-Oct;22(5):486-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2013.12038.x. Epub 2013 May 15.


Background and objectives: Patients with prescription opioid use disorders and co-occurring pain present a formidable challenge for healthcare providers, and little is known about patients with this dual diagnosis. This study examined the prevalence of pain and motives for use among individuals with prescription opioid dependence.

Methods: Participants (N = 127) included 86 non-treatment seeking individuals with current prescription opioid dependence and 41 healthy controls. They were administered a battery of assessments to evaluate pain and substance use.

Results: Participants with prescription opioid dependence were significantly more likely than controls to report current pain (62.2 vs. 12.2%), as well as higher levels of pain interference and severity. The most common source of prescription opioids was a physician (91.3%) and the most common motive for using prescription opioids, initially and currently, was to relieve pain (70.3% and 81.0%, respectively). Motivation for subsequent non-medical use of prescription opioids included to get high (73.8%), to increase energy (71.0%), to decrease anxiety (51.2%), and to improve sleep (35.7%).

Conclusion: Pain is a significant comorbidity and motivator for the non-medical use of prescription opioids. Provider and patient education regarding the safe use of prescription opioids, as well as interventions targeting prescription opioid dependence, are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / psychology*