Revisiting patient-related barriers to cancer pain management in the context of the US opioid crisis

Kristine Kwekkeboom, Ronald C. Serlin, Sandra E. Ward, Thomas W. LeBlanc, Adeboye Ogunseitan, James Cleary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT: Patient fear of addiction is a well-documented barrier to the use of analgesic medications for cancer pain control. Over the past 2 decades in the United States, an "opioid crisis" has arisen, accompanied by risk messages delivered through news outlets, public health education, and patient-provider communication. The purpose of this study was to determine if patient-related barriers to cancer pain management-specifically, fears of addiction-and related pain outcomes (pain severity, pain interference with daily life, and adequacy of pain management) have worsened over the last 20 years. A sample of 157 outpatients with active recurrent or active metastatic cancer completed the Barriers Questionnaire-II (BQ-II) and measures of pain and analgesic use. We identified 7 comparison studies published between 2002 and 2020 that reported patient-related barriers using the BQ-II. Significant linear relationships were found between later year of publication and greater fear of addiction (harmful effect subscale score, B = 0.0350, R2 = 0.0347, F1,637 = 23.19, P < 0.0001) and between year of publication and more pain management barriers overall (total BQ-II score, B = 0.039, R2 = 0.065, F1,923 = 73.79, P < 0.0001). Relationships between BQ-II scores (harmful effect and total) and pain outcomes did not change over time. Despite worsening in patient-related barriers, the proportion of patients with adequate vs inadequate analgesic use did not differ over time. Notably, 40% of participants reported inadequate analgesic use, a statistic that has not improved in 20 years. Additional research is necessary to clarify factors contributing to changing beliefs. Findings indicate a continuing need for clinical and possibly system/policy-level interventions to support adequate cancer pain management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1840-1847
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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