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Identifying and assessing the risk of opioid abuse in patients with cancer: an integrative review

Authors Carmichael A, Morgan L, Del Fabbro E

Received 24 November 2015

Accepted for publication 2 March 2016

Published 2 June 2016 Volume 2016:7 Pages 71—79

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/SAR.S85409

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Li-Tzy Wu

Video abstract presented by Egidio Del Fabbro.

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Ashley-Nicole Carmichael,1 Laura Morgan,1 Egidio Del Fabbro2

1School of Pharmacy, 2Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Palliative Care, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

Background: The misuse and abuse of opioid medications in many developed nations is a health crisis, leading to increased health-system utilization, emergency department visits, and overdose deaths. There are also increasing concerns about opioid abuse and diversion in patients with cancer, even at the end of life.
Aims: To evaluate the current literature on opioid misuse and abuse, and more specifically the identification and assessment of opioid-abuse risk in patients with cancer. Our secondary aim is to offer the most current evidence of best clinical practice and suggest future directions for research.
Materials and methods: Our integrative review included a literature search using the key terms “identification and assessment of opioid abuse in cancer”, “advanced cancer and opioid abuse”, “hospice and opioid abuse”, and “palliative care and opioid abuse”. PubMed, PsycInfo, and Embase were supplemented by a manual search.
Results: We found 691 articles and eliminated 657, because they were predominantly noncancer populations or specifically excluded cancer patients. A total of 34 articles met our criteria, including case studies, case series, retrospective observational studies, and narrative reviews. The studies were categorized into screening questionnaires for opioid abuse or alcohol, urine drug screens to identify opioid misuse or abuse, prescription drug-monitoring programs, and the use of universal precautions.
Conclusion: Screening questionnaires and urine drug screens indicated at least one in five patients with cancer may be at risk of opioid-use disorder. Several studies demonstrated associations between high-risk patients and clinical outcomes, such as aberrant behavior, prolonged opioid use, higher morphine-equivalent daily dose, greater health care utilization, and symptom burden.

Keywords: screening questionnaires, urine drug screens, prescription drug-monitoring programs

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