Comorbid chronic pain and opioid use disorder: literature review and potential treatment innovations

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Chronic pain (CP) and opioid use disorder (OUD) remain challenging complex public health concerns. This is an updated review on the relationship between CP and OUD and the use of stepped care models for assessment and management of this vulnerable population. A literature search was conducted from 2008 to the present in PubMed, Embase, and PsycInfo using the terms pain or chronic pain and opioid-related disorders, opiate, methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, opioid abuse, opioid misuse, opioid dependen*, heroin addict, heroin abuse, heroin misuse, heroin dependen*, or analgesic opioids, and stepped care, integrated services, multidisciplinary treatment, or reinforcement-based treatment. Evidenced-based data exists on the feasibility, implementation, and efficacy of stepped care models in primary care settings for the management of CP and opioid use. Although these studies did not enroll participants with OUD, they included a sub-set of patients at risk for the development of OUD. There remains a dearth of treatment options for those with comorbid CP and OUD. Future research is needed to explore the aetiology and impact of CP and OUD, and greater emphasis is needed to improve access to comprehensive pain and substance use programmes for high-risk individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-146
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 3 2018


  • Chronic pain
  • integrated care
  • opioid use disorder
  • opioids
  • stepped care models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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