Perceptions of Signs of Addiction Among Opioid Naive Patients Prescribed Opioids in the Emergency Department

Peter T. Serina*, Patrick M. Lank, Howard S. Kim, Kenzie A. Cameron, Daniel Mark Courtney, Lauren A. Opsasnick, Laura M. Curtis, Michael S. Wolf, Danielle M. Mccarthy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives:Patient knowledge deficits related to opioid risks, including lack of knowledge regarding addiction, are well documented. Our objective was to characterize patients' perceptions of signs of addiction.Methods:This study utilized data obtained as part of a larger interventional trial. Consecutively discharged English-speaking patients, age >17 years, at an urban academic emergency department, with a new opioid prescription were enrolled from July 2015 to August 2017. During a follow-up phone interview 7 to 14 days after discharge, participants were asked a single question, "What are the signs of addiction to pain medicine?"Verbatim transcribed answers were analyzed using a directed content analysis approach and double coding. These codes were then grouped into themes.Results:There were 325 respondents, 57% female, mean age 43.8 years, 70.1% privately insured. Ten de novo codes were added to the 11 DSM-V criteria codes. Six themes were identified: (1) effort spent acquiring opioids, (2) emotional and physical changes related to opioid use, (3) opioid use that is "not needed, (4) increasing opioid use, (5) an emotional relationship with opioids, and (6) the inability to stop opioid use.Conclusions:Signs of addiction identified by opioid naive patients were similar to concepts identified in medical definitions. However, participants' understanding also included misconceptions, omissions, and conflated misuse behaviors with signs of addiction. Identifying these differences will help inform patient-provider risk communication, providing an opportunity for counseling and prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-497
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Addiction Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


  • addiction
  • emergency department
  • opioid
  • patient perspectives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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