Research Article| Volume 20, ISSUE 4, P473-480, April 2019

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Influence of Abuse History on Concurrent Benzodiazepine and Opioid Use in Chronic Pain Patients

Published:November 16, 2018DOI:


      An important predictor of opioid overdose is co-use of benzodiazepines, which are often prescribed for anxiety. Coping with anxiety may be particularly difficult among individuals with a history of abuse, as it is often linked to higher pain severity and poorer coping skills. We explored whether abuse history moderated the association between anxiety and benzodiazepine use among current opioid users. New patients at a tertiary care, outpatient pain clinic completed self-report measures of medication use, anxiety, and physical and sexual abuse history (child abuse only, adult abuse only, or cumulative abuse). The present study included adult patients reporting current opioid use (n = 1,785). Approximately 16% reported co-use of benzodiazepines, and 17% reported a history of abuse. Patients reporting child abuse only and cumulative abuse reported co-use of benzodiazepines and opioids more often than those denying abuse and patients reporting adult abuse only (P < .001). Multivariate logistic regression analyses showed that the probability of benzodiazepine use among patients reporting cumulative abuse increased sharply at high levels of anxiety (P = .003). Cumulative abuse may increase sensitivity to psychological distress and put patients at risk for co-use. Providers should be aware of life history factors, including abuse, that may drive the need for medication.
      Perspective: This article examines the association between history of abuse victimization and co-use of benzodiazepines among chronic pain patients reporting current opioid use. The findings suggest that cumulative victimization across the lifespan may contribute to co-use by increasing sensitivity to psychological or physical distress or by negatively impacting coping skills.

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