Trends in urine drug monitoring among persons receiving long-term opioids and persons with opioid use disorder in the United States

Minji Sohn, Jeffery C. Talbert, Zhengyan Huang, Carrie Oser, Patricia R. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Practice guidelines recommend urine drug monitoring (UDM) at least annually in the setting of chronic opioid therapy as an objective assessment of substance use. However, empirical evidence on who gets tested and how often testing occurs is lacking. Objectives: This study investigates 10-year UDM trends in the United States based on 2 factors: (1) the duration of prescription opioid treatment, and (2) having an opioid use disorder (OUD) diagnosis and medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) prescriptions. Study Design: Observational cross-sectional study. Setting: Research was conducted using administrative claims data from Optum’s deidentified Clinformatics Data Mart Database for the period 2007 to 2016. The dataset contained information on the plan enrollment and health care claims from 50 states and the District of Columbia. Methods: To examine trends in UDM based on the duration of prescription opioid treatment, persons receiving prescription opioid analgesics were categorized into 4 groups based on the number of days covered: (a) less than 90 days, (b) 90 to 179 days, (c) 180 to 269 days, and (d) at least 270 days. To examine trends based on an OUD diagnosis and MOUD prescriptions, persons diagnosed with OUD were identified and categorized based on the presence of MOUD prescriptions as follows: (a) OUD with buprenorphine (BPN) and naltrexone (NTX) in the same year; (b) OUD with BPN only; (c) OUD with NTX only; (d) OUD with chronic prescription opioid analgesics (≥ 90 days); (e) OUD without prescription opioid analgesics, BPN, or NTX; and (f) chronic prescription opioid analgesics (≥ 90 days) without an OUD diagnosis. For analysis, the percent receiving UDM was estimated per group per year. Then the data were restricted to those receiving at least one UDM to estimate the average number of UDM per person. Results: Data included an average of 364,485 persons per year receiving prescription opioid analgesics for chronic use, and 10,277 per year receiving an OUD diagnosis. Among those receiving prescription opioid analgesics, less than 50% received UDM. For those receiving at least one UDM, one additional UDM was performed per person as the duration of opioids increased by 90 days. Among persons with OUD, the percent receiving UDM was the highest for those receiving both BPN and NTX (87%), followed by those receiving BPN only (80%), chronic opioids (79%), NTX only (72%), and those not receiving any MOUD/opioids (54%). Limitations: Methadone dispensing for OUD treatments was not captured in administrative claims data. Conclusions: Although recommended for patients with chronic pain, UDM is provided less than half of the time for these patients. However, once patients received at least one UDM, they would continue to receive it on a fairly regular basis. Compared with those with chronic pain, persons diagnosed with OUD are more likely to receive UDM at a more frequent interval.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E249-E256
JournalPain Physician
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. All rights reserved.


  • Buprenorphine
  • Chronic pain
  • Medications for opioid use disorder
  • Naltrexone
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Prescription opioid analgesic
  • Urine drug monitoring
  • Urine drug screening
  • Urine drug testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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