Problematic prescription opioid use in a chronic pain treatment facility: the role of emotional processes

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Substance use & misuse


BACKGROUND: Factors associated with prescription opioid misuse in a chronic pain treatment population are limited, and increasing our understanding of associated factors could lead to improved targeting of prevention and intervention efforts.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate factors associated with problematic prescription opioid use in patients with chronic pain, and whether assessing emotional processes - alexithymia, ambivalence over emotional expression (AEQ), and emotional approach coping - improves understanding of problematic prescription opioid use beyond traditional risk factors.

METHODS: Participants were 100 patients with chronic pain (mean age = 47.57 years, SD = 11.57; 53% female; 81% African American) who were receiving a self-administered opioid medication through a local pain clinic. We assessed traditional risk factors (substance use history, pain, psychiatric distress, and pain catastrophizing), the three emotional processes, and problematic prescription opioid-related outcomes.

RESULTS: Zero-order correlations revealed that alexithymia was significantly, positively related to problematic prescription opioid use behaviors (PDUQ), and AEQ was significantly positively related to both prescription opioid misuse behaviors and opioid use disorder symptoms. Multiple regressions that included traditional risk factors and the three emotional processes indicated that AEQ was a unique correlate of problematic opioid use behaviors (β=.27, p=.04) and prescription opioid-related symptoms of abuse and dependence (β=.37, p=.01); history of substance use disorders was also associated.

CONCLUSIONS: In addition to personal history of substance use problems, AEQ is a modifiable risk factor - and thus potential treatment target - for prescription opioid misuse and opioid use disorders.

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ePub ahead of print

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