August 28, 2018
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Seeking pain relief common motive for opioid misuse

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Almost two-thirds of U.S. adults with prescription opioid misuse reported their main reason for misuse was to alleviate physical pain, findings published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed.

The data also revealed that sociodemographic characteristics, mental illness and specific substance use disorders were tied to specific motivations for misusing prescription opioids.

“A few studies have examined motivations for misusing prescription medications based on local data or national samples of high school seniors,” Beth Han, MD, PhD, MPH, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at HHS, and colleagues wrote. “Due to lack of available data, none of the existing studies has simultaneously examined correlates of prescription opioid use, misuse, use disorders and motivations for misuse in the U.S. adult population.”

Using data from more than 51,000 adults who participated in the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, researchers simultaneously assessed characteristics related to past-year prescription opioid use, misuse and use disorders, and associations of their motivations for prescription opioid misuse.

Analysis revealed that prescription opioid use disorders were linked to:

  • being aged 18 to 29 and 30 to 49 years;
  • male sex;
  • good/fair/poor health;
  • suicidal ideation;
  • substance use disorders (specifically for cannabis, heroin and cocaine use); and
  • other psychotropic medication misuse or use disorders.

Main reasons for most recent misuse among U.S. adult prescription opioid misusers included easing physical pain (63.4%), trying to get high (11.6%) and trying to relax (10.9%). The authors also found that sociodemographic characteristics, mental illness and specific substance use and use disorders were tied to specific reasons for misusing opioids. In addition, misusers who reported pain relief as a motivation for prescription opioid misuse were more likely to have suicidal ideation, cannabis and heroin use or use disorders, cocaine use disorders and other psychotropic misuse or use disorders.

“Treating co-occurring conditions could be a crucial aspect of addressing prescription opioid use disorders. Financial motivations may be a driver of potentially risky prescription opioid misuse, and better provision of pain treatment is needed for all adults, particularly for those without health insurance,” Hand and colleagues wrote. “Our results suggest that clinicians should assess prescription opioid misuse and its motivation and should screen for multiple co-occurring behavioral health conditions in patients who misuse prescription opioids.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosures: Han reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.