Military Veterans' Perspectives on Postoperative Opioid Use: A Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data

J Perianesth Nurs. 2023 Jun;38(3):483-487. doi: 10.1016/j.jopan.2022.09.006. Epub 2023 Jan 10.


Purpose: This qualitative analysis of interviews with surgical patients who received a brief perioperative psychological intervention, in conjunction with standard medical perioperative care, elucidates patient perspectives on the use of pain self-management skills in relation to postoperative analgesics.

Design: This study is a secondary analysis of qualitative data from a randomized controlled trial.

Methods: Participants (N = 21) were rural-dwelling United States Military Veterans from a mixed surgical sample who were randomized to receive a manual-based, telephone-based Perioperative Pain Self-management intervention consisting of a total of four pre- and postoperative contacts. Semi-structured qualitative interviews elicited participant feedback on the cognitive-behavioral intervention. Data was analyzed by two qualitative experts using MAXQDA software. Key word analyses focused on mention of analgesics in interviews.

Findings: Interviews revealed a dominant theme of ambivalence towards postoperative use of opioids. An additional theme concerned the varied ways acquiring pain self-management skills impacted postoperative opioid (and non-opioid analgesic) consumption. Participants reported that employment of pain self-management strategies reduced reliance on pharmacology for pain relief, prolonged the time between doses, took the "edge off" pain, and increased pain management self-efficacy.

Conclusions: Perioperative patient education may benefit from inclusion of teaching non-pharmacologic pain self-management skills and collaborative planning with patients regarding how to use these skills in conjunction with opioid and non-opioid analgesics. Perianesthesia nurses may be in a critical position to provide interdisciplinary postoperative patient education that may optimize postoperative pain management while minimizing risks associated with prolonged opioid use.

Keywords: complementary therapies; interprofessional care; pain self-management; perioperative, postoperative; postoperative analgesic use.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic*
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Veterans* / psychology


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic