Opioid Misuse Risk Factors Differ for Men and Women

Behavioral issues more common in men; women who misuse likely to have psychological issues
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 10 (HealthDay News) -- Men at risk for the misuse of prescription opioids taken for pain are more likely to have legal and behavioral problems, while women who misuse are more likely to have emotional or psychological issues, according to a study in the April issue of the Journal of Pain.

To determine risk factors for misuse, Robert N. Jamison, Ph.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues studied 275 male and 335 female patients who were prescribed opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. The subjects took the revised Screener and Opioid Assessment for Pain Patients questionnaire at baseline. After five months, the researchers assessed opioid misuse using the Prescription Drug Use Questionnaire (PDUQ) and a urine sample. Each patient's physician also completed a substance misuse behavior checklist, the Prescription Opioid Therapy Questionnaire (POTQ).

At five-month follow-up, the researchers found that women had higher scores on the PDUQ; however, on the POTQ, men had a higher rate of aberrant drug behavior as rated by physicians. An analysis of all three questionnaires found that male patients were more likely to have behavioral and legal problems, whereas female patients tended to have higher scores on items related to psychological distress.

"Understanding gender differences in substance abuse risk among chronic pain patients is important for clinical assessment and treatment. This study suggests that women are at greater risk to misuse opioids because of emotional issues and affective distress, whereas men tend to misuse opioids because of legal and problematic behavioral issues," the authors write.

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