Prevalence of interpersonal abuse in primary care patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain

Stacey Balousek, Mary Beth Plane, Michael Fleming*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Interpersonal abuse is associated with clinical problems including chronic pain disorders. OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study is to describe 30-day and lifetime prevalence of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse found in men and women prescribed opioids for chronic pain. DESIGN: Cross-sectional interview is the design of this study. PARTICIPANTS: Patients, 1,009, currently prescribed opioids for chronic noncancer pain. They were recruited from the practices of 235 Family Physicians and Internists in Wisconsin. The most common pain diagnoses were arthritis, low back pain, headache, and fibromyalgia/myofascial pain. MEASUREMENT: Data for this secondary analysis on rates of interpersonal abuse were based on 3 questions from the Addiction Severity Index (ASI) regarding 30-day and lifetime emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. RESULTS: Forty-seven percent of women and 22% of men reported a history of lifetime physical abuse. Thirty -five percent of women and 10% of men reported lifetime sexual abuse. Binary logistic regression identified the following variables associated with lifetime physical abuse: female gender (RR 2.81, CI 2.01-3.94), age 31-50 (RR1.77, CI 1.30-2.41), Caucasian (RR1.67, CI 1.19-2.35), increased psychiatric symptoms as measured by the ASI (RR 2.14, CI 1.56-2.94), and lifetime suicide attempts (RR 3.98, CI 2.76-5.74). CONCLUSIONS: This study reports prevalence of abuse in both men and women prescribed opioids for chronic pain in primary care settings. Subjects who report experiencing interpersonal abuse also report significantly higher rates of suicide attempts and score higher on the ASI psychiatric scale. Screening patients taking opioids for chronic pain for interpersonal abuse may lead to a better understanding of contributors to their physical and mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1268-1273
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Abuse
  • Chronic pain
  • Opioids
  • Prevalence
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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