Assessment of Chronic Pain Management in the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder: Gaps in Care and Implications for Treatment Outcomes

Published:November 13, 2020DOI:


      • Two-thirds reported chronic pain was not managed in their opioid treatment program.
      • Pain management was noted as a secondary effect of medication-assisted treatment.
      • Experiences of pain were the primary factor reportedly leading to opioid relapse.


      Chronic pain is a significant comorbid condition among individuals with opioid use disorder (OUD). However, due to conflicting perceptions of responsibility, structural barriers, and a lack of widely applied standards of care, it is unclear what the landscape of chronic pain management looks like in addiction medicine. Using a national opioid surveillance system, we analyzed survey data from new entrants (n = 14,449) to 225 OUD treatment centers from 2013 to 2018, as well as an online survey among a subset of respondents (n = 309). While chronic pain was reported by 33.4% of the sample, two-thirds of the chronic pain group (66.0%) reported their pain was not managed through their OUD treatment program, with 47% reporting worsening pain. Pain that was managed was primarily done so through pharmaceuticals (75.2%), notably as a secondary effect of medication-assisted treatment. In addition, 43.2% reported chronic pain as a primary factor in their opioid relapse. These data suggest that chronic pain is commonly reported, yet not managed by many OUD treatment programs, increasing the likelihood of opioid relapse. In order to improve poor outcomes among OUD patients, interdisciplinary collaboration/care, along with evidence-based policies or processes for quality pain management in addiction care need to be prioritized.


      This article suggests chronic pain is commonly reported, yet not managed by many OUD treatment programs, increasing the likelihood of opioid relapse. In order to improve low retention and success rates among OUD patients, interdisciplinary collaboration, evidence-based policies or processes (eg, referral) for quality pain management in addiction care need to be prioritized.

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