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Pain Research and Management
Volume 1, Issue 3, Pages 155-162
Original Article

The SISAP: A New Screening Instrument for Identifying Potential Opioid Abusers in the Management of Chronic Nonmalignant Pain Within General Medical Practice

Robert B Coambs,2 Josée L Jarry,1 Anusha C Santhiapillai,2 Rixi V Abrahamsohn,1 and Cristina M Atance1

1Centre for Health Promotion and Psychology Department, University of Toronto, Canada
2Health Promotion Research Inc, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Received 4 March 1996; Accepted 8 June 1996

Copyright © 1996 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Many physicians are overly cautious about prescribing opioids for chronic pain because of fears of iatrogenic addiction. However, in patients with chronic pain, addiction to opioid analgesics is exceedingly rare when there is no prior history of alcohol or drug abuse.

OBJECTIVE: To validate an instrument that separates possible opioid abusers from those who are at low risk.

DESIGN/METHODS: The Screening Instrument for Substance Abuse Potential (SISAP) was designed to identify individuals with a possible substance abuse history quickly and accurately. It is based on the National Alcohol and Drug Use Survey (n=9915). Using the first half of the sample (n=4967), two previously validated alcohol use items were combined with three illicit drug use items. These five questions identified those with a history of alcohol and/or illicit drug use.

RESULTS: Using the second half of the sample (n=4948), the validation procedure showed that the five combined items correctly classified 91% of substance abusers and had a low rate of false negatives.

DISCUSSION: The SISAP is brief and resistant to misrepresentation or falsification. The SISAP is expected to improve pain management by facilitating focus on the appropriate use of opioid analgesics and therapeutic outcomes in the majority of patients who are not at risk of opioid abuse, while carefully monitoring those who may be at greater risk.