Using analgesics for emotional modulation is associated with increased distress, depression, and risk of opioid and alcohol misuse

Kevin E. Vowles*, Robert W. Bailey, Mindy L. McEntee, Melissa Pielech, Karlyn A. Edwards, Lena A. Bolling, W. Evan Rivers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: It is important to identify aspects of analgesic use that are associated with harm in chronic pain. Historically, the focus has been patterns of use (eg, overuse). This study evaluated another aspect of use - rather than evaluating how analgesics were being used, the primary interest was in why they were being used. Methods: In total, 334 analgesic using individuals with chronic pain responded to a pool of items assessing reasons for analgesic use. Measures of pain intensity, distress, depression, and opioid and alcohol misuse were also completed. Results: Exploratory factor analyses indicated 3 overarching reasons for use, including taking analgesics: (1) for pain reduction/functional improvement; (2) for emotional modulation/sedation; and (3) to be compliant with prescriber instructions. Correlation and regression analyses indicated that the second factor had the strongest relations with the other measures used, such that greater endorsement of analgesic use for emotional modulation was associated with greater distress, depression, and opioid and alcohol misuse. Using analgesics for pain reduction/functional improvement was associated with greater pain-related distress and depression. Using analgesics to be compliant was not associated with any measure. This pattern of results was generally replicated when a subsample of 131 individuals taking opioids was examined. Discussion: Results support the utility of examining reasons for analgesic use; use to achieve emotional modulation/sedation may be particularly associated with risk. The data also provide support for the questionnaire developed, the Reasons for Analgesic Use Measure. ©

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-982
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2018


  • analgesics
  • chronic pain
  • reasons for analgesic use measure
  • risky substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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