Unintentional opioid misuse: A problem that’s often overlooked

Up to 1 in 4 patients misuses his or her opioid medication1*


Unintentional opioid misuse: A problem that’s often overlooked

Up to 1 in 4 patients misuses his or her opioid medication1*

Misuse can be intentional or unintentional2,3:

  • Unsanctioned use (running out early, binging)2
  • Accessing drugs from other sources (friend, other doctors)2
  • Not taking the medication according to the prescription4

Patients misuse their medication when they alter the route of administration4:

chewing Chewing
crushing Crushing
cutting Cutting
grinding Grinding
65% of patients are unaware that crushing, cutting, or grinding can alter the way an opioid medication works.4†

Find out which patient types may be at risk for unintentional misuse. Download the “Who is at risk?” resource found in the tool bar to the right.

As you know, opioids are not appropriate for all patients. But for those who are ideal candidates, education and practice of safe and proper use is essential for treatment success.

*In a systematic review and data synthesis to clarify and calculate prevalence estimates, misuse was documented in approximately 1 in 4 patients (mean range: 21.7% to 29.3%). Misuse was defined as opioid use contrary to the directed or prescribed pattern of use, regardless of the presence or absence of harm or adverse effects.1

A total of 1021 patients with chronic pain completed an online survey (mean age: 56 years). When asked if cutting, crushing, or grinding opioid medications caused any changes in the way these medications worked, 65% said “No.” Patients were diagnosed with multiple chronic pain conditions; the most common were back pain (75%), joint pain (64%), headaches (39%), and fibromyalgia (39%).4


1. Vowles KE, McEntee ML, Julnes PS, Frohe T, Ney JP, van der Goes DN. Rates of opioid misuse, abuse, and addiction in chronic pain: a systematic review and data synthesis. Pain. 2015;156(4):569-576.

2. Kahan M, Srivastava A, Wilson L, Gourlay D, Midmer D. Misuse of and dependence on opioids: study of chronic pain patients. Can Fam Physician. 2006;52(9):1081-1087.

3. Katz N, Dart RC, Bailey E, Trudeau J, Osgood E, Paillard F. Tampering with prescription opioids: nature and extent of the problem, health consequences, and solutions. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2011;37(4):205-217.

4. Pergolizzi JV Jr, Taylor R Jr, Nalamachu S, et al. Challenges of treating patients with chronic pain with dysphagia (CPD): physician and patient perspectives. Curr Med Res Opin. 2014;30(2):191-202.