Relationship between Opioid Analgesic Prescription and Unemployment in Patients Seeking Acupuncture for Chronic Pain in Urban Primary Care

Elizabeth Chuang, Eric N. Gil, Qi Gao, Benjamin Kligler, M. Diane McKee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: The widespread use of opioid analgesics to treat chronic nonmalignant pain has contributed to the ongoing epidemic of opioid-related morbidity and mortality. Previous studies have also demonstrated a relationship between opioid analgesic use and unemployment due to disability. These studies have been limited to mainly white European and North American populations. The objective of this study is to explore the relationship between opioid analgesic use for chronic nonmalignant pain in an urban, mainly black and Hispanic, low-income population. Design: This is a cross-sectional observational study. Setting: Subjects were recruited from six urban primary care health centers. Subjects: Adults with chronic neck, back, or osteoarthritis pain participating in an acupuncture trial were included. Methods: Survey data were collected as a part of the Acupuncture Approaches to Decrease Disparities in Pain Treatment two-arm (AADDOPT-2) comparative effectiveness trial. Participants completed a baseline survey including employment status, opioid analgesic use, the Brief Pain Inventory, the global Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information Systems quality of life measure, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), and demographic information. A multivariable logistic regression model was built to examine the association between opioid analgesic use and unemployment. Results: Opioid analgesic use was associated with three times the odds of unemployment due to disability while controlling for potential confounders, including depression, pain severity, pain interference, global physical and mental functioning, and demographic characteristics. Conclusions: This study adds to the growing body of evidence that opioid analgesics should be used with caution in chronic nonmalignant pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1528-1533
Number of pages6
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Chronic Pain
  • Disability
  • Low Back Pain
  • Narcotic
  • Opioid
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Unemployment


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