Older Adults More Likely to Misuse Opioids for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Ty S. Schepis, PhD
Department of Psychology
Texas State University
San Marcos, TX

Ty S. Schepis, PhD
 Department of Psychology
 Texas State University
 San Marcos, TX
Dr. Schepis

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Prescription opioid misuse motives have been studied in adolescents, young adults, and across the population. One study across the population suggested that older adults differed from younger adults, but this was not fully clear.

We wanted to examine motives across age groups and to investigate the correlates of opioid motive groups in older adults (50 and older). We found that motives changed with aging, with increasing endorsement of pain relief motives, particularly pain relief without other motives.

In contrast, more recreational opioid misuse motives (e.g., to experiment, to get high) peaked in adolescents or young adults. Finally, non-pain relief motives in older adults (50 and older) were associated with higher rates of any past year substance use disorder and past year suicidal ideation.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Prescription opioid misuse motives change with age, with greater misuse to relief pain – and decreasing opioid misuse motives for more recreational reasons. While non-pain relief motives are associated with greater concurrent risky behavior and suicidality, even opioid misuse for pain relief motives only is associated with greater odds of other risk behavior and psychopathology.

Ultimately, clinicians may need to consider age as an important factor in their patients with signs of opioid misuse – while all patients may need better pain relief, given its very high prevalence as a motive, younger patients may be more likely to need substance use interventions; given the high rates of psychopathology associated with opioid misuse, behavioral health may be needed.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Research that continues to examine prescription opioid misuse in older adults is important. Accumulating evidence suggests that they differ from younger individuals engaged in misuse in crucial ways, and these need to be explored further, as such research may direct interventions and public health policies to reduce misuse.

No disclosures


Ty S Schepis, Linda Wastila, Beth Ammerman, Vita V McCabe, Sean Esteban McCabe, Prescription Opioid Misuse Motives in US Older Adults, Pain Medicine, , pnz304, https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnz304

Editor’s note: This piece discusses suicide. If you have experienced suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide and want to seek help, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741 or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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