Best Practices in the Management of Nonmedical Opioid Use in Patients with Cancer-Related Pain

Esad Ulker, Egidio Del Fabbro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: Nonmedical opioid use (NMOU) in patients with cancer is a term covering a spectrum of nonprescribed opioid use. The extent to which an individual uses opioids in a nonprescribed manner will influence propensity for adverse effects such as neurotoxicity, substance use disorder, overdose, and death. Objectives: The objectives of this study were to (A) evaluate current literature regarding management of NMOU in patients with cancer-related pain; (B) provide best practice recommendations based on evidence; and (C) integrate practices derived from the management of noncancer pain, where clinically appropriate or when the oncology literature is limited. Methods: This study is a narrative review. Implications: Although harm from NMOU was thought to be rare among oncology patients, about one in five patients with cancer is at risk of adverse outcomes including prolonged opioid use, high opioid doses, and increased health care utilization. The management of NMOU can be challenging because pain is a multidimensional experience encompassing physical, psychological, and spiritual domains. An interdisciplinary team approach is most effective, and management strategies may include (A) education of patients and families; (B) harm reduction, including opioid switching, decreasing the overall daily dose, avoiding concurrent sedative use, and using adjuvant medications for their opioid-sparing potential; (C) managing psychological and spiritual distress with an interdisciplinary team and techniques such as brief motivational interviewing; and (D) risk mitigation by pill counts, frequent clinic visits, and accessing statewide prescription drug monitoring plans. Conclusion: Although many of the management strategies for NMOU in patients with cancer-related pain are modeled on those for chronic non–cancer-related pain, there is emerging evidence that education and harm-reduction initiatives specifically for cancer-related pain are effective. Implications for Practice: Nonmedical opioid use (NMOU) in patients with cancer is a term covering a broad spectrum of nonprescribed opioid use. The extent to which an individual uses opioids in a nonprescribed manner will influence propensity for adverse effects such as neurotoxicity, substance use disorder, overdose, and death. This review evaluates the evidence for best practices in oncology and addresses limitations in the literature with supplemental evidence from noncancer chronic pain. Management recommendations for NMOU are provided, based on a combination of literature-based evidence and best clinical practice. Effective management of NMOU in oncology has the potential to improve quality of life, decrease health utilization, and improve survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-196
Number of pages8
JournalOncologist
Volume25
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cancer-related pain
  • Nonmedical opioid use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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