Patterns of prescription opioid abuse and comorbidity in an aging treatment population

Theodore J. Cicero, Hilary L. Surratt, Steven Kurtz, M. S. Ellis, James A. Inciardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Very little is known about the impact of age and gender on drug abuse treatment needs. To examine this, we recruited 2,573 opioid-dependent patients, aged from 18 to 75 years, entering treatment across the country from 2008 to 2010 to complete a self-administered survey examining drug use histories and the extent of comorbid psychiatric and physical disorders. Moderate to very severe pain and psychiatric disorders, including polysubstance abuse, were present in a significant fraction of 18- to 24-year-olds, but their severity grew exponentially as a function of age: 75% of those older than 45 years had debilitating pain and psychiatric problems. Women had more pain than men and much worse psychiatric issues in all age groups. Our results indicate that a "one-size-fits-all" approach to prevention, intervention, and treatment of opioid abuse that ignores the shifting needs of opioid-abusing men and women as they age is destined to fail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sources of funding: Supported in part by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grants DA020791 , DA 21330 (TJC) , and DA21330 (SK) and an unrestricted research grant from Denver Health and Hospital Authority .


  • Age and gender influences on opioid treatment
  • Age-related changes in treatment needs
  • Opioid abuse
  • Opioid treatment centers
  • Prescription drug abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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