Chronic pain is common among patients with drug use disorders. The prevalence of chronic pain and its consequences in primary care patients who use drugs is unknown.
To examine: 1) the prevalence of chronic pain and pain-related dysfunction among primary care patients who screen positive for drug use, and 2) the prevalence of substance use to self-medicate chronic pain in this population.
This was a cross-sectional analysis.
This study included 589 adult patients who screened positive for any illicit drug use or prescription drug misuse, recruited from an urban, hospital-based primary care practice.
Both pain and pain-related dysfunction were assessed by numeric rating scales, and grouped as: (0) none, (1-3) mild, (4-6) moderate, (7-10) severe. Questions were asked about the use of substances to treat pain.
Chronic pain and pain-related dysfunction were the norm for primary care patients who screened positive for drug use, with nearly one-third reporting both severe pain and severe pain-related dysfunction. Many patients using illicit drugs, misusing prescription drugs and using alcohol reported doing so in order to self-medicate their pain. Pain needs to be addressed when patients are counseled about their substance use.