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One-Third of Patients Undergoing Long-Term Pain Therapy Meet Criteria for Addiction


Under the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) new definition of addiction, one-third of patients undergoing long-term pain therapy with opioids meet the criteria for addiction, a new study finds.  Contrary to expectations, the new definition does not reduce the percentage of people considered addicted to opioids.

According to Medical News Today, the findings come from a study of 705 patients undergoing long-term opioid treatment for pain not related to cancer. The researchers compared the APA’s old and new criteria for addiction, and were surprised to find the percentage of patients with addiction to opioids was the same.

Under both the APA’s new and old criteria for addiction, opioid-use disorder was associated with being younger than 65, having a history of opioid abuse and substance abuse treatment, and higher opioid withdrawal symptoms. The study found overall, about 35 percent of patients met the criteria for opioid addiction; 21.7 percent of the patients met the criteria for moderate opioid-use disorder, and 13.2 percent had severe opioid-use disorder. The findings are published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases.

4 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of John Alexander
    John Alexander / August 18, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I work proffessionally for the past 19 yrs in addiction in recovery 23 i dont understand the alarm most addicts have beaten thenseseklves physically i talk to Dr who honestly tell me in some cases the the operation will not work. my insight on this and excuse me if im why off topic which i can be at times is that, if no alternate pain medication or operation works, if the addict takes the RX opiod as prescribed whats the problem. i say that because thru the years i have seen many relapses behind clients not being treated because they are addicts, to much pain can cause relapse. i would like feedback on this. thanks Johnny A. CASAC

  2. Doug / August 1, 2011 at 10:59 am

    How ironic that the first paragraph in the link to the DSM5 includes the concern that the historic DSM term “dependence” prevented people from getting adequate doses of opioids. Everything I have seen suggests the opposite: that as a nation we believe pain management should lead to pain elimination. I have seen what these drugs do to people. It is hypocritical that our federal government is fighting medical marijuana while allowing Big Pharma to profit from the OD deaths and diversion that are hallmarks of opioids. Even most drugs used to treat opioid addiction have a street value due to their psychoactive properties. Our drug policy is tragically misguided.

  3. ChrisKelly / July 29, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    you cant access the study without paying, but thats an excellent question Dr. Levitt. How can these people be treated by a major medical system but NOT be “told” that they have addictive disorders or be offered treatment for that “disorder”? I wish I could access the actual study and read more. Because something is wrong with this picture.

  4. Stewart B. Leavitt, MA, PhD / July 26, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    APA definitions aside, this study was conducted in an outpatient population at a major healthcare system, presumably with competent practitioners. So, one might question why/how an astonishing third of patients receiving Rx-opioids had not earlier been detected with addiction and in treatment for the disorder. Just wondering.

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