Understanding Pain Management & Opioid Abuse and Misuse

Integrated Care Addresses the Multiple Features of Chronic Pain

This graphic was adapted from an infographic created by the Alliance for Patient Access.

Opioids in Chronic Pain Management

Prescription pain medications, such as opioids, may be an appropriate and important treatment option for people whose chronic pain is not adequately managed with other methods.2,9 The Surgeon General offers a comprehensive checklist for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

Understanding Opioid Abuse & Misuse

More than 12 million people reported the abuse or misuse of pain medications in 2010.10 The prior year, abuse and misuse of prescription pain medications sent more than 475,000 people to emergency departments, a number that nearly doubled in just five years.10

Abuse is the nonmedical use of a drug for the positive psychoactive effects it produces.11 The most common form of opioid abuse is swallowing a number of intact pills5, but opioid analgesics can be abused in a number of ways:5

  • Crushed and swallowed
  • Crushed and snorted
  • Crushed and smoked
  • Crushed, dissolved, and injected

Percent of patients being treated with chronic opioid therapy with high likelihood of abuse/addiction26

Alcohol-induced dose dumping, or the associated intake of alcoholic beverages together with oral controlled-release opioid formulations, is another form of abuse that may result in an uncontrolled and immediate drug release.12

Misuse is using the prescription drug for a reason other than for which it was prescribed.11 It differs from abuse in that the user is not seeking an intentional high. Misuse can take many forms:11

  • Using a drug for a different condition than that for which the drug is prescribed
  • Taking more drug than prescribed or at different dosing intervals
  • Using a drug without a prescription for therapeutic purposes