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Pain Research and Management
Volume 20, Issue 1, Pages 15-22
Original Article

Exploring the Lived Experience of Adults using Prescription Opioids to Manage Chronic Noncancer Pain

Erica A Brooks,1 Anita Unruh,1 and Mary E Lynch2

1School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
2Departments of Anesthesia and Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Copyright © 2015 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: Chronic noncancer pain (CNCP) and prescription opioid use is a highly complex and growing health care issue in Canada. Many quantitative research studies have investigated the effectiveness of opioids for chronic pain; however, gaps remain in the literature regarding the personal experience of using opioids and their impact on those experiencing CNCP.

OBJECTIVE: To explore the lived experience of adults using prescription opioids to manage CNCP, focusing on how opioid medication affected their daily lives.

METHODS: In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with nine adults between 40 and 68 years of age who were using prescription opioids daily for CNCP. Interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed, and subsequently analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis.

RESULTS: Six major themes identified positive and negative aspects of opioid use associated with social, physical, emotional and psychological dimensions of pain management. These themes included the process of decision making, and physical and psychosocial consequences of using opioids including pharmacological side effects, feeling stigmatized, guilt, fears, ambivalence, self-protection and acceptance.

CONCLUSION: Although there were many negative aspects to using opioids daily, the positive effects outweighed the negative for most participants and most of the negative aspects were socioculturally induced rather than caused by the drug itself. The present study highlighted the complexities involved in using prescription opioids daily for management of CNCP for individuals living with pain.