About 4 Percent of Pain Patients Abuse Meds, Study Estimates

A new study finds that 3.8 percent of chronic-pain patients misuse prescription medications like OxyContin and Percocet, a rate about four times higher than among the general population, Reutersreported Aug. 3.

Researcher Michael F. Fleming of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and colleagues also found that patients who had addiction problems tended to exhibit "aberrant" behavior, such as requesting early refills, raising dosage without authorization, intentionally oversedating themselves, or using opioids for reasons other than treating pain.

The study included 801 patients with an average age of 49 and who, on average, had had pain problems for 16 years.

Healthcare workers need to take this into consideration when assessing substance abuse.

Research Reference: Fleming, M.F., Balousek, S.L., Klessig, C.L., Mundt, M.P., Brown, D.D. (2007) Substance Use Disorders in a Primary Care Sample Receiving Daily Opioid Therapy. The Journal of Pain, 8(7): 573-582.

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