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News from The Journal of Pain
Study Shows Distress Intolerance Associated with Opioid Misuse
Chicago, July 28, 2016 – Inability to manage negative emotional and somatic stress is associated with opioid misuse in adults with chronic pain, according to new research reported in The Journal of Pain, published by the American Pain Society, www.amercianpainsociety.org.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and McLean Hospital investigated if high distress intolerance would make patients with chronic pain more likely to misuse opioid analgesics. Previous research suggests those with chronic pain who misuse their opioids exhibit higher levels of distress in general, as well as heightened reactivity to that distress.
Distress intolerance is defined as the perceived or actual inability to cope with adverse somatic or emotional stress. This can be treated effectively with cognitive behavioral therapy. For their study, the authors hypothesized that participants with higher distress intolerance levels would be more likely to misuse their prescribed opioids. They also examined if stress intolerance was associated with high pain sensitivity.
The study evaluated 51 participants from the pain management clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Subjects completed questionnaires and self reports probing for pain severity, pain thresholds, distress intolerance and opioid misuse.
Results showed that self-reported distress intolerance was significantly associated with opioid misuse in the study sample. For every one-unit increase in the Distress Intolerance Index, the likelihood of being in the opioid misuse group was 12 percent higher. Of the 51 study subjects, 31 met criteria for opioid misuse.
“This study found robust differences in distress intolerance between adults with chroic pain, with and without opioid medication misuse. Distress intolerance may be a relevant marker of risk for opioid misuse among those with chronic pain,” said R. Kathryn McHugh, PhD, lead author and clinical researcher at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.
Distress intolerance, however, was not associated with greater pain sensitivity but was linked with higher pain-related anxiety. The authors noted that distress intolerance is targeted extensively in cognitive behavioral therapy and can be modified with treatment.
About the American Pain Society
Based in Chicago, the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. APS is the professional home for investigators involved in all aspects of pain research including basic, translational, clinical and health services research to obtain the support and inspiration they need to flourish professionally. APS strongly advocates expansion of high quality pain research to help advance science to achieve effective and responsible pain relief. For more information on APS, visit www.americanpainsociety.org.