| - none required, based on individual patient history.
Benzodiazepine-based hypnotics include temazepam (Restoril, Temazepam, Gelthix) and flurazepam (Dalmane). Neither is recommended because of habit-forming potential, withdrawal symptoms, and sedating side effects. Flurazepam has an active metabolite with a very long half-life, resulting in drug accumulation and next-day somnolence, and should be avoided.
At the time of this guidelines writing, marijuana use is illegal under federal law and cannot be recommended for use in this guideline. The Colorado statute also states that insurers are not required to pay for marijuana.
Marijuana produces many cannabinoids. Only a few of these substances have been explored in detail. Cannabis is currently procured in Colorado through a registry program. Products sold cannot be evaluated for pharmaceutically appropriate content or strength. THC content has increased from 2% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2007, thus making it difficult to correctly determine effects of a specific plant on an individual (Hall W 2009). Because smoked marijuana reaches its effect quickly, it is thought that most smokers titrate their dosage when using higher potency agents (Huestis M 1992).
There are only two oral pharmaceutical cannabinoid products on the market. These medications were developed initially for nausea due to oncological drug therapy but have been trialed in other settings and are described below. A buccal spray is accepted in Europe and Canada and may be approved by the FDA for use with neuropathic pain. Initial studies were done on neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis.
There are a number of studies evaluating the health effects of cannabinoids. Cannabis is associated with the subsequent development of psychosis in adolescents and can cause transient episodes of paranoia and psychotic symptoms in some individuals. It is not known whether or not the association with psychosis is causal. Cannabis increases heart rate in a dose related fashion and some studies suggest it may increase the risk for myocardial infarction in those with cardiovascular disease (Hall W 2009; Kaufmann RM 2010). Because smoked marijuana contains many of the same carcinogens as smoked tobacco, it has been postulated that cancer risk may be increased in heavy marijuana smokers. However, the association has not been established epidemiologically (Hall W 2009; Calabria B 2010). There appears to be an increase in respiratory infections although there is no clear disposition for chronic obstructive lung disease in regular cannabis smokers. Cannabis dependence occurs in some users. In some individuals, withdrawal symptoms have been demonstrated after 20 days of high dose use and consist of decreased mood and appetite with irritability, insomnia, anxiety and depression (Hall W 2009).
Unlike alcohol and many other sedating drugs of abuse, marijuana does not appear to be lethal at any dose consumed by heavier users when used in isolation, unlike alcohol, probably because it is not a respiratory depressant. Some studies have shown a decrease in reaction time and some association with motor vehicle accidents. However, the risk appears to be less than ½ the risk of driving under alcohol intoxication (Hall W 2009; Menetrey A 2005; Calabria B 2010). There is only one study that evaluated the use of marijuana in conjunction with chronic opioid management, thus no recommendations can be made to clinicians regarding this combination. Clinicians should keep in mind that there are an increasing number of deaths due to the toxic misuse of opioids with other medications and alcohol. Drug screening is a mandatory component of chronic opioid management. It is appropriate to screen for alcohol use and have a contractual policy regarding alcohol use during chronic opioid management as alcohol use in combination with opioids is more likely to contribute to death or accidents than marijuana.
The contraindications and major side effects for cannabinoid are listed below. No laboratory monitoring is necessary.
Relative Contraindications – history of psychosis or risk factors for psychosis, seizure history, cardiovascular risk history, history of addiction, hypersensitivity to cannabinoids.
Major Side Effects – Dizziness or fatigue, rapid heart rate, dry mouth, euphoria, Less common effects- paranoia or hallucinations, seizures. A withdrawal reaction can occur when high doses are discontinued. It may include sweating and rhinorrhea with anorexia.
Psychological reactions: intoxication from cannabis frequently results in impaired motor coordination, euphoria, anxiety, sensation of slowed time, impaired judgment, social withdrawal, and hallucinations. Psychotic and anxiety disorders can occur from the use of cannabis. Paranoid ideation ranging from suspiciousness to frank delusions, hallucinations and depersonalization or derealization have been reported. Some of these findings may be related to the higher level of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) found in the marijuana currently sold.
Description – Dronabinol is a synthetic delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol, which is also a naturally occurring component of Cannabis sativa L. (marijuana).
Indications – As of the time of this guideline writing, formulations of dronabinol have been FDA approved for nausea and vomiting with cancer therapy and weight loss associated with AIDS.
Dosing and Time to Therapeutic Effect – 2.5 mg twice a day titrated up to 20 mg total per day.
Description – Nabilone is a synthetic cannabinoid which is also a naturally occurring component of Cannabis sativa L. (marijuana).
Indications – As of the time of this guideline writing, formulations of nabilone have been FDA approved for nausea and vomiting with cancer therapy.
Dosing and Time to Therapeutic Effect –1 to 2 mg twice a day titrated up to 6 mg per day.
Description –tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in a one to one ratio, plus other components of cannabis extracts such as terpenoids and flavonoids mixed in a tincture. In the UK, nabiximols has just been approved for spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. In Canada, nabiximols is approved under Health Canada’s Notice of Compliance with Conditions (NOC/c) policy for the relief of neuropathic pain and advanced cancer pain. It has not been approved in the US as of the time of this guideline writing. This drug is not intended to provide the euphoria produced with smoking marijuana.
Indications – In other countries for neuropathic pain and spasticity of MS, cancer pain. There is some evidence that nabiximols can modestly decrease peripheral neuropathic pain with allodynia in some patients who were concomitantly treated with opioids or anticonvulsants, however, the drop out rate for those who continued the medication longer term was high (Nurmikko T 2007).
Dosing and Time to Therapeutic Effect – Spray administered under the tongue. Up to 8 sprays every 3 hours with a maximum of 48 per day.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs):
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are useful for pain and inflammation. In mild cases, they may be the only drugs required for analgesia. There are several classes of NSAIDs and the response of the individual injured worker to a specific medication is unpredictable. For this reason a range of NSAIDs may be tried in each case with the most effective preparation being continued. Patients should be closely monitored for adverse reactions. The US Food and Drug Administration advise all NSAIDs may cause an increased risk of serious cardiovascular thrombotic events, myocardial infarction, and stroke, which can be fatal. Administration of proton pump inhibitors, histamine 2 blockers, or misoprostol, a prostaglandin analog, along with these NSAIDs may reduce the risk of duodenal and gastric ulceration but do not impact possible cardiovascular complications. There is good evidence that naproxen has a more favorable cardiovascular risk profile than other NSAIDs when used over a long period for chronic pain (Trelle, 2011). Due to the cross-reactivity between aspirin and NSAIDs, NSAIDs should not be used in aspirin-sensitive patients, and should be used with caution in all asthma patients. NSAIDs are associated with abnormal renal function, including renal failure, as well as, abnormal liver function. Certain NSAIDs may have interactions with various other medications. Individuals may have adverse events not listed above. Intervals for metabolic screening are dependent upon the patient’s age, general health status and should be within parameters listed for each specific medication. Complete blood count (CBC), liver and renal function should be monitored at least every six months in patients on chronic NSAIDs and initially when indicated.
Non-selective Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.
Includes NSAIDs and acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). Serious GI toxicity, such as bleeding, perforation, and ulceration can occur at any time, with or without warning symptoms in patients treated with traditional NSAIDs. Physicians should inform patients about the signs and/or symptoms of serious gastrointestinal toxicity and what steps to take if they occur. Anaphylactoid reactions may occur in patients taking NSAIDs. NSAIDs may interfere with platelet function. Fluid retention and edema have been observed in some patients taking NSAIDs.
Optimal Duration: 1 to 2 weeks.
Maximum Duration: Chronic use is not generally recommended but may be appropriate in select cases if monitored regularly. Use of these substances long-term (3 days per week or greater) is associated with rebound pain upon cessation.
Selective Cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) Inhibitors.
COX-2 inhibitors are more recent NSAIDs and differ in adverse side effect profiles from the traditional NSAIDs. The major advantages of selective COX-2 inhibitors over traditional NSAIDs are that they have less gastrointestinal toxicity and no platelet effects. COX-2 inhibitors can worsen renal function in patients with renal insufficiency; thus, renal function may need monitoring.
COX-2 inhibitors should not be first-line for low risk patients who will be using an NSAID short-term but are indicated in select patients for whom traditional NSAIDs are not tolerated. Serious upper GI adverse events can occur even in asymptomatic patients. Patients at high risk for GI bleed include those who use alcohol, smoke, are older than 65, take corticosteroids or anti-coagulants, or have a longer duration of therapy. Celecoxib is (Celebrex) contraindicated in sulfonamide allergic patients.
Optimal Duration: 7 to 10 days.
Maximum Duration: Chronic use is not generally recommended but may be appropriate in select cases if monitored regularly. Use of these substances long-term (3 days per week or greater) is associated with rebound pain upon cessation.
Opioids: are the most powerful analgesics. Their use in acute pain and moderate-to-severe cancer pain is well accepted. Their use in chronic nonmalignant pain, however, is fraught with controversy and lack of scientific research.
General Information: Opioids include some of the oldest and most effective drugs used in the control of severe pain. The discovery of opioid receptors and their endogenous peptide ligands has led to an understanding of effects at the binding sites of these naturally occurring substances. Most of their analgesic effects have been attributed to their modification of activity in pain pathways within the central nervous system; however, it has become evident that they also are active in the peripheral nervous system. Activation of receptors on the peripheral terminals of primary afferent nerves can mediate anti-nociceptive effects, including inhibition of neuronal excitability and release of inflammatory peptides. Some of their undesirable effects on inhibiting gastrointestinal motility are peripherally mediated by receptors in the bowel wall.
The central nervous system actions of these drugs account for much of their analgesic effect and for many of their other actions, such as respiratory depression, drowsiness, mental clouding, reward effects, and habit formation. With respect to the latter, it is crucial to distinguish between three distinct phenomena: tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
Tolerance refers to a state of adaptation in which exposure to a drug over time causes higher doses of that drug to be required in order to produce the same physiologic effect and/or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount that drug.
Dependence refers to a set of disturbances in body homeostasis that leads to withdrawal symptoms, which can be produced with abrupt discontinuation, rapid reduction, decreasing blood levels, and/or by administration of an antagonist.
Addiction is a primary, chronic, neurobiological disease, with genetic, psychological, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. It is a behavioral pattern of drug craving and seeking which leads to a preoccupation with drug procurement and an aberrant pattern of use. The drug use is frequently associated with negative consequences.
Tolerance and dependence are physiological phenomena, are expected with the continued administration of opioids, and should not deter physicians from their appropriate use. Before increasing the opioid dose due to a presumption of physiologic tolerance, the physician should review other possible causes for the decline in analgesic effect. Consideration should be given to possible new psychological stressors or an increase in the activity of the nociceptive pathways. Other possibilities include new pathology, low testosterone level that impedes delivery of opioids to the central nervous system, drug diversion, or abusive use of the medication.
The use of opioids is well accepted in treating cancer pain, where nociceptive mechanisms are generally present due to ongoing tissue destruction, expected survival may be short, and symptomatic relief is emphasized more than functional outcomes. In chronic non-malignant pain, by contrast, tissue destruction has generally ceased, meaning that central and neuropathic mechanisms frequently overshadow nociceptive processes. Expected survival in chronic pain is relatively long and return to a high-level of function is a major goal of treatment. Therefore, approaches to pain developed in the context of malignant pain may not be transferable to chronic non-malignant pain. Opioids are generally not the best choice of medication for controlling neuropathic pain. Tricyclics, SNRIs, and anticonvulsants should be tried before considering opioids for neuropathic pain.
In most cases, analgesic treatment should begin with acetaminophen, aspirin, and NSAIDs. While maximum efficacy is modest, they may reduce pain sufficiently to permit adequate function. When these drugs do not satisfactorily reduce pain, medications specific to the diagnosis should be used, (e.g. neuropathic pain medications as outlined in Medications section).
Most studies show that only around 50% of patients tolerate opioid side effects and receive an acceptable level of pain relief. Depending on the diagnosis and other agents available for treatment the incremental benefit can be small (Cepeda M 2007; Landau C 2007, Naliboff B 2010). Patients should have a thorough understanding of the need to pursue many other pain management techniques in addition to medication use in order to function with chronic pain. They should also be thoroughly aware of the side effects and how to manage them. Common side effects are drowsiness, constipation, nausea and possible testosterone decrease with longer term use.
Physicians should be aware that deaths from unintentional drug overdoses exceed the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the US. Most of these deaths are due to the use of opioids, usually in combination with other respiratory depressants such as alcohol or benzodiazepines (Okie, 2010). The prevalence of drug abuse in the population of patients undergoing pain management varies according to region and other issues. A recent study indicated that ¼ of patients being monitored for chronic opioid use have abused drugs occasionally, and ½ of those have frequent episodes of drug abuse (Manchikanti L 2001; 2007). Eighty per-cent of patients admitted to a large addiction program reported that their first use of opioids was from prescribed medication (Cicero 2008).
Choice of Opioids:
There is no evidence that one long-acting opioid is more effective than another, nor more effective than other types of medications, in improving function or pain (Chou R 2008). There is some evidence that long-acting oxycodone (Dazidox, Endocodone, ETH-oxydose, Oxycontin, Oxyfast, OxyIR, Percolone, Roxicodone) and oxymorphone have equal analgesic effects and side effects, although the milligram dose of oxymorphone (Opana) is ½ that of oxycodone (Hale M 2005). There is no evidence that long-acting opioids are superior to short-acting opioids for improving function or pain or causing less addiction (Chou R 2008). Long-acting opioids are generally preferred for chronic opioid management as they are thought to result in a less pronounced euphoria state and are thus less likely to lead to addiction. They may result in better tolerance for the sedative and cognitive effects of opioids. However, due to the lack of evidence physicians may choose to use short-acting opioids in some patients. Long-acting opioids should not be used for the treatment of acute, sub-acute or post-operative pain, as this is likely to lead to drug dependence and difficulty tapering the medication. Additionally, there is a potential for respiratory depression to occur. When choosing longer acting opioids for chronic pain management it is reasonable to consider cost given the lack of superiority profiles for one medication over another. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that manufacturers develop Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS ) for most opioids. Physicians should carefully review the plans or educational materials provided under this program.
Addiction and abuse potentials of commonly prescribed opioid drugs may be estimated in a variety of ways, and their relative ranking may depend on the measure which is used. Hydrocodone is the most commonly prescribed opioid in the general population, and is one of the most commonly abused opioids in the population; however, the abuse rate per 1000 prescriptions is lower than the corresponding rates for extended release oxycodone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Palladone), and methadone. Extended release oxycodone appears to be the most commonly abused opioid, both in the general population and in the abuse rate per 1000 prescriptions (Cicero T 2007). Tramadol, by contrast, appears to have a lower abuse rate than for other opioids (Cicero T 2005). Newer drug formulations such as oxymorphone, have been assumed to be relatively abuse-resistant, but their abuse potential is unknown and safety cannot be assumed in the absence of sound data (Butler S 2006).
Tapentadol (Nucynta) is a new mu opioid agonist which also inhibits serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake activity. It is currently available in an intermediate release formulation and may be available as extended release if FDA approved. Due to its dual activity it can cause seizures or serotonin syndrome, particularly when taken with other SSRIs, SNRIs, tricyclics, or MAO inhibitors. It has not been tested in patients with severe renal or hepatic damage. It has similar opioid abuse issues as other opioid medication; however, it is promoted as having fewer GI side effects, such as constipation. Further studies may be needed to verify this finding (Sloan P 2010). There is good evidence that extended release tapentadol is more effective than placebo and comparable to oxycodone (Buynak R 2010). In that study the percent of patients who achieved 50% or greater pain relief was placebo, 18.9%, tapentadol, 27.0%, and oxycodone, 23.3% There is some evidence that tapentadol can reduce pain to a moderate degree in diabetic neuropathy, average difference 1.4/10 pain scale, with tolerable adverse effects (Schwartz S 2011). Tapentadol is not recommended as a first line opioid for chronic, subacute or acute pain due to the cost, lack of superiority over other analgesics and need for further testing to assess GI effects in comparison to other medications. It may be appropriate for patients who cannot tolerate other opioids due to GI side effects.
Methadone requires special precautions. It may cause cardiac arrhythmias due to QT prolongation and has been linked with a greater number of deaths due to its prolonged half life (Chou, Fanciullo, R 2009). Propoxyphene (Darvon, Davon-N, PP-Cap) has been withdrawn from the market due to cardiac effects including arrhythmias.
Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Sublimaze) is not generally recommended for use with musculoskeletal chronic pain patients. It has been associated with a number of deaths and has high addiction potential. Fentanyl should never be used transbuccally in this population.
Meperidine (Demerol) should not be used for chronic pain; it and its active metabolite, normeperidine, present a serious risk of seizure and hallucinations. It is not a preferred medication for acute pain as its analgesic effect is similar to codeine.
Buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex) may be used for opioid addiction or habituation treatment in patients with chronic pain, it is not recommended for most chronic pain patients due to methods of administration, reports of euphoria in some patients, and lack of proof for improved efficacy in comparison with other opioids. It may be appropriate for some patients at high risk for addiction and should be used in consultation with an addiction medicine specialist.
Doses of opioids in excess of 120 mg morphine equivalent have been observed to be associated with increased duration of disability, even when adjusted for injury severity in injured workers with acute low back pain and thus any use above 120 mg should be very closely monitored (Webster B 2007; Franklin G 2008). Doses in excess of 200 mg should be avoided (National Opioid Use Guideline Group [NOUGG] 2010). Higher doses are more likely to be associated with hypo-gonadism and the patient should be informed of this risk (NOUGG, 2010). Higher doses of opioids also appear to contribute to the euphoric effect.
Health care professionals and their patients must be particularly conscientious regarding the potential dangers of combining over-the-counter acetaminophen with prescription medications that also contain acetaminophen. Opioid and acetaminophen combination medication are limited due to the acetaminophen component. Total acetaminophen dose per day should not exceed 4 grams per 24-hour period due to possible liver damage.
Physiologic Responses to Opiates: Physiologic responses to opiates are influenced by variations in genes which code for opiate receptors, cytochrome P450 enzymes, and catecholamine metabolism. Interactions between these gene products significantly affect opiate absorption, distribution, and excretion. Hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and morphine are metabolized through the glucuronide system. Other opioids generally use the cytochrome P450 system (Smith, 2009). Allelic variants in the mu opiate receptor may cause increased analgesic responsiveness to lower drug doses in some patients. The genetic type can predict either lower or higher needs for opioids. For example, at least 10% of Caucasians lack the CYP450 2D6 enzyme that converts codeine to morphine (Kosarac, 2009). In some cases genetic testing for cytochrome P450 type may be helpful. When switching patients from codeine to other medications assume the patient has little or no tolerance to opioids. Many gene-drug associations are poorly understood and of uncertain clinical significance; the treating physician needs to be aware of the fact that the patient’s genetic makeup may influence both the therapeutic response to drugs and the occurrence of adverse effects.
Physicians can expect chronic opioid patients to experience more pain, and require higher doses of opioids, peri-operatively than pre-operatively (Fishbain D 2009).
Risk Factors: Consultation or referral to a pain specialist should be considered when the pain persists but the underlying tissue pathology is minimal or absent and correlation between the original injury and the severity of impairment is not clear. Consider consultation if suffering and pain behaviors are present and the patient manifests risk behaviors described below, or when standard treatment measures have not been successful or are not indicated.
A psychological consultation including psychological testing (with validity measures) is indicated for all chronic pain patients as these patients are at high risk for unnecessary procedures and treatment and prolonged recovery.
Many behaviors have been found related to prescription-drug abuse patients. None of these are predictive alone, and some can be seen in patients whose pain is not under reasonable control; however, the behaviors should be considered warning signs for higher risk of abuse or addiction by physicians prescribing chronic opioids (Webster, 2010).
The following behaviors frequently seen in prescription drug - abusing patients should be considered warning signs for addiction and patients that are at high-risk when placed on chronic opioids. Consultation with an addiction specialist may be useful when patients present with these symptoms:
Unusual knowledge of controlled substances;
Request for specific controlled substances or claims of allergy or ineffectiveness to other medications;
Demanding assessment or medication after usual clinic hours;
Requesting more refills than scheduled, “losing” drugs;
Signs of mood disorders or other psychiatric conditions;
Physical signs of drug abuse;
No interest in their diagnosis, fails to keep other treatment or consultation appointments;
Feigns or exaggerates physical problems;
Pressures physician by eliciting sympathy, guilt or direct threats (Webster L 2010).
Subjective complaints exceed objective findings.
Attempts to transfers care after a doctor refuses to fill prescription(s) for habit forming medication.
In one study four specific behaviors appeared to identify patients at risk for current substance abuse: increasing doses on their own, feeling intoxicated, early refills, and oversedating oneself. A positive test for cocaine also appeared to be related (Fleming, 2008).
Recommendations for Opioid Use: When considering opioid use for moderate to moderately severe chronic pain, a trial of opioids must be accomplished as described below and the patient must have failed other chronic pain management regimes. Physicians should complete the education recommended by the FDA, risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS) provided by drug manufacturing companies.
General Indications – There must be a clear understanding that opioids are to be used for a limited term as a trial (see trial indications below). The patient should have a thorough understanding of all of the expectations for opioid use. The level of pain relief is expected to be relatively small, 2 to 3 points on a VAS pain scale, although in some individual patients it may be higher. For patients with a high response to opioid use, care should be taken to assure that there is no abuse or diversion occurring. The physician and patient must agree upon defined functional goals as well as pain goals. If functional goals are not being met the opioid trial should be reassessed. The full spectrum of side effects should be reviewed. The contract signed by the patient must clarify under what term the opioids will be tapered. See section iii. D below.
Therapeutic Trial Indications – A therapeutic trial of opioids should not be employed unless the patient has begun multi-disciplinary pain management.
Chronic use of opioids should not be prescribed until the following have been met:
The failure of pain management alternatives by a motivated patient including active therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy, pain self-management techniques, and other appropriate medical techniques.
Physical and psychological and/or psychiatric assessment including a full evaluation for alcohol or drug addiction, dependence or abuse, performed by two specialists including the authorized treating physician and a specialist with expertise in chronic pain. The patient should be stratified as to low, medium or high risk for abuse based on behaviors and prior history of abuse. High risk patients are those with active substance abuse of any type or a history of prescription opioid abuse. These patients should generally not be placed on chronic opioids. If it is deemed appropriate to do so, physician addiction specialists should be monitoring the care. Patients with a past history of substance abuse or other psychosocial risk factors should be co-managed with a physician addiction specialist (Webster, 2010).
Urine drug screening for substances of abuse and substances currently prescribed. Clinicians should keep in mind that there are an increasing number of deaths due to the toxic misuse of opioids with other medications and alcohol. Drug screening is a mandatory component of chronic opioid management. It is appropriate to screen for alcohol use and have a contractual policy regarding alcohol use during chronic opioid management as alcohol use in combination with opioids is more likely to contribute to death or accidents than marijuana.
Physician Prescription Drug Monitoring Program review
Informed, written, witnessed consent by the patient including the aspects noted above.
The trial, usually with a short-acting agent first, should document sustained improvement of pain control, at least a 30% reduction, and of functional status, including return-to-work and/or increase in activities of daily living Farrar, J. T., 2003; Farrar, J. T., 2000). Frequent follow-up at least every 2 to 4 weeks may be necessary to titrate dosage and assess clinical efficacy.
On-Going, Long-Term Management after a successful trial should include:
Prescriptions from a single practitioner;
Ongoing review and documentation of pain relief, functional status, appropriate medication use, and side effects;
Ongoing effort to gain improvement of social and physical function as a result of pain relief;
Contract detailing the following:
Side effects anticipated from the medication;
Requirement to continue active therapy;
Need to achieve functional goals including return to work for most cases;
Reasons for termination of opioid management, referral to addiction treatment (Rolfs R 2010), or for tapering opioids (tapering is usually over 30 days). Examples to be included in the contract include, but are not limited to:
Diversion of medication
Lack of functional effect at higher doses
Non-compliance with other drug use
Drug screening showing use of drugs outside of the prescribed treatment or evidence of non-compliant use of prescribed medication
Requests for prescriptions outside of the defined time frames
Lack of adherence identified by pill count, excessive sedation, or lack of functional gains
Excessive dose escalation with no decrease in use of short-term medications (NOUGG, 2010; Chou, Fanciullo, 2009).
Contracts should be written at a 6th grade reading level to accommodate the majority of patients (Roskos S 2007).
Use of drug screening initially, randomly at least once a year and as deemed appropriate by the prescribing physician, (Rolfs R 2010; NOUGG, 2010; Chou R, Fanciullo, 2009). Drug screening is suggested for any patients who have been receiving opioids for 90 days (Washington State, Agency Medical Directors Group [AMDG], 2010). A discussion regarding how screens positive for marijuana or alcohol will be handled should be included in the opioid contract. The concept of opioid misuse encompasses a variety of problems distinct from the development of addiction, such as nonmedical use, diversion, consultation with multiple prescribers, and unintentional overdose.
It appears that users of prescription opioids who also experienced depression or anxiety disorders were more likely to abuse opioids (Edlund, M, Steffick, 2007). Urine testing, when included as one part of a structured program for pain management, has been observed to reduce abuse behaviors in patients with a history of drug misuse (Wiedemer NL 2007; Starrels J 2010). Clinicians should keep in mind that there are an increasing number of deaths due to the toxic misuse of opioids with other medications and alcohol. Drug screening is a mandatory component of chronic opioid management. It is appropriate to screen for alcohol use and have a contractual policy regarding alcohol use during chronic opioid management as alcohol use in combination with opioids is more likely to contribute to death or accidents than marijuana