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J Natl Med Assoc. 2006 Mar;98(3):420-8.

Parental substance abuse, reports of chronic pain and coping in adult patients with sickle cell disease.

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Department of Psychiatry, Division of Medical Psychology, Duke, Durham, NC, USA.


There is increasing interest from a social learning perspective in understanding the role of parental factors on adult health behaviors and health outcomes. Our review revealed no studies, to date, that have evaluated the effects of parental substance abuse on reports of chronic pain and coping in adult patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). We explored the effects of parental substance (alcohol or drug) abuse on reports of the sensory, affective and summary indices of pain in 67 adult patients, mean age 38.9 (13.5), with SCD. We also explored the effects of parental substance abuse on psychopathology associated with pain and active coping. Twenty-four percent of patients reported that their parent(s) abused substances. Patients whose parent(s) were characterized as substance abusers reported greater sensory (p=0.02), affective (p=0.01) and summary (VAS; p=0.02) indices of pain as compared to their counterparts, whose parent(s) were not characterized as substance abusers. Patients did not differ in average age, education or the propensity to respond in a socially acceptable manner. There was a significant trend towards patients who characterized their parents as abusers scoring higher than their counterparts on active coping. We propose a Social Learning Theory to explain the current findings and suggest a need for additional prospective research to simultaneously explore biological (genetic) and social factors that influence the interpretation, experience and reporting of chronic pain in adult patients with chronic disease.

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