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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2004 Jan 7;73(1):23-31.

Treatment needs associated with pain in substance use disorder patients: implications for concurrent treatment.

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  • 1Center for Health Care Evaluation, VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.


Although pain problems are prevalent in substance use disorder (SUD) patients, the special treatment needs of SUD patients with pain have not been investigated. This study examines the problems and behaviors associated with reported pain among veterans treated at eight opioid substitution treatment clinics. Patients reporting pain had more severe medical and psychiatric problems and greater health care utilization. Pain was associated with an increased propensity for misuse of substances with analgesic effects, suggesting that ongoing pain contributes to an altered and more severe pattern of drug-seeking behavior. Patients without pain rarely abused sedatives or opioid medication, indicating that misuse of these substances is unique to co-morbid pain and SUD patients. Patients reporting pain did not differ from patients without pain in use of heroin, alcohol, cocaine or in injection practices, demonstrating that they are truly SUD patients in need of SUD treatment. Pain complicates the treatment of SUD and should be addressed as an important co-morbidity during treatment.

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