Between 20% and 30% of opioid analgesic drugs prescribed for chronic pain are misused and rates of addiction range from 8–12%, according to a review article published in Pain.

Kevin E. Vowles, PhD, of University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and colleagues reviewed data from 38 studies on problematic use of opioids, including misuse, abuse, and addiction in adults patients ≥18 years with chronic non-cancer pain (persistent pain lasting longer than three months) taking oral opioid drugs. 

After adjusted analysis, the average rate of opioid misuse was estimated at 21–29% and 8–12% for rates of addiction. Only one study assessed the rate of opioid abuse.

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With these results, the authors note that misuse and addiction appear to be distinct patterns of opioid use due to the discrepancies between the two rates. Additional research that includes relevant information on patient and pain-related characteristics and a focus on specific types of problematic opioid use is needed for accurate data, they conclude.


1. Vowles KE. Pain. 2015;156(4):567-568, 

This article originally appeared on MPR