Study Reveals a Key Factor Increasing Opioid Addiction Chances by 41%

Opioids are a powerful class of drugs, but their use is coming under more and more scrutiny, mainly due to the high levels of prescription misuse, addiction and overdose.


Finding alternatives to opioids is one component of this complicated issue, determining what factors predispose people to abuse and addiction may be just as important.
Previous research into opioid abuse and addiction has revealed several factors that play into the development of opioid use disorder:

personal or family history of substance abuse

psychological problems

• or a history of abuse before adolescence

• yet, a recent study shows a surprising new factor that has the ability to increase the opioid addiction by staggering 41%: the patient’s pain levels

The study “Pain as a Predictor of Opioid Use Disorder in a Nationally Representative Sample,” published in the American Journal of Psychiatry revealed the data of about 34,000 patients, acquired through the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.


The study objective was to determine what relationship, if any, exists between moderate to severe pain and the likelihood of developing prescription opioid use disorder. The study measured pain on a five-point scale based on how much it interfered with a patient’s daily life, and prescription opioid use disorder was determined through a structured interview.


Both of these components were measured at baseline (between 2001 and 2002) and again three years later. The study revealed that moderate to severe pain was significantly linked with opioid use disorder, both at the start and three years later.


In fact, these individuals had a 41% increased risk of developing the disorder.


This finding was independent of several demographic and clinical characteristics, including age, gender and anxiety and mood disorders.


The study also lent more evidence to the theory that age and gender do have an impact on the probability of an individual developing opioid-related issues. Despite women and older adults being more likely to report pain, it was men and younger adults who were more likely to experience opioid use disorder.


These results not only reveal the need for appropriate screening and monitoring for those on opioids, but they also reveal the need for efficient interdisciplinary care from the start. Successfully treating painful conditions before they reach a moderate or severe stage can significantly reduce the disconcerting trend of opioid abuse and addiction. Comparably, offering alternative options to opioids, regardless of the pain level, can effectively reduce dependence on these risky drugs.


These steps, paired with close monitoring for signs of addiction among at-risk individuals, pill counts and drug testing for those on long-term opioid maintenance, may be able to reduce the number of those with opioid use disorder while simultaneously improving care for the chronic pain population as a whole.


The Pain Management Group is committed to providing a multidisciplinary, individualized approach, in addition to a safe, patient-centered medication management program.