Marked Difference Between Opioid Misuse and Addiction: More Research Needed

A new review of published studies conducted by researchers at the University of New Mexico examines opioid therapy for chronic pain and concludes that the incidence of opioid abuse is 20% to 30%, while the rate of opioid addiction is approximately 10%. The review appears in this month’s issue of PAIN®Misuse was defined as using opioids contrary to instructions, regardless of harmful or adverse effects. Addiction was defined as continued opioid use with actual or potential harmful effects. The authors note the need for further research into patient and pain related characteristics to enable sound decision-making by both clinicians and policy makers with respect to opioid therapy.

The researchers drew special attention to the high rate of opioid misuse, noting that, "If it is accurate that approximately one in four patients on opioids display patterns of opioid misuse, but not addiction, then perhaps more efficient targeting of treatment resources would be of benefit." Hence, in the effort to balance risk and accessibility, low-intensity interventions that include patient education and monitoring might be a viable alternative to simply not prescribing the medications for those at risk of misuse.

Read a news story about the findings, with a link to the review, here.

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