Inadequately Treated Pain Associated With Opioid Misuse

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Inadequately Treated Pain Associated With Opioid Misuse

A new study, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that untreated or inadequately treated pain is associated with self-medication and turning to ill-gotten drugs for relief. The study offers further evidence that putting tougher restrictions on opioid prescribing are leading to more opioid misuse and addiction.

The study looked at nearly 200 adults in Rhode Island, aged 18-29, who admitted to having used opioid painkillers “non-medically” in the past month. That doesn’t mean they weren’t using them for pain – it just means that they were not using them as prescribed or taking them without a prescription.

In fact, more than 8 in 10 had experienced an injury or health problem that caused severe pain, and 3 in 4 reported that they began misusing opioids to treat this pain. Most stated they went to a doctor, but about one-third (36% of women and 27% of men) said their doctor refused to give them something for the pain.

Also, about 1 in 5 users (20%) who reported severe pain did not even attempt to obtain them from a physician because they were uninsured or believed that they would be denied

Brandon D.L. Marshall, Ph.D., of Brown University School of Public Health and lead author:

“Pervasive negative perceptions of healthcare providers…and also issues related to accessing healthcare resources, may also underlie the high prevalence of professionally unmitigated physical pain in this population…”

Study participants who didn’t visit a doctor reported several reasons:

48% Thought they could handle/manage the pain with over-the-counter products
25% Thought they would be denied painkillers
40% Don’t like seeing a doctor
25% Had no health insurance


We will never find a balance between over-treating and under-treating pain unless researchers develop an effective painkiller that is non-addictive and can be approved by the FDA. Fortunately, there are many working on this problem. But for those who are in pain or already addicted, this may be little consolation.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


Just Believe Recovery is a fully licensed, Joint Commission accredited, comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment center located in Carbondale, Pennsylvania

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