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Chronic pain, prescribed opioids and overdose risk: a qualitative exploration of the views of affected individuals and family members

Parkes, Tessa; Foster, Rebecca; McAuley, Andrew; Steven, Deborah; Matheson, Catriona; Baldacchino, Alex


Tessa Parkes

Andrew McAuley

Deborah Steven

Catriona Matheson

Alex Baldacchino


It has been estimated that chronic non cancer pain (CNCP) affects more than 30% of people worldwide. Correspondingly, prescriptions for individuals experiencing CNCP have increased in recent years. While opioids can minimize pain, they also pose a risk of overdose. In 2019 in Scotland, prescription analgesics contributed to, or were implicated in, approximately 19% of drug related deaths. The experiences of those prescribed opioids for CNCP and family members, particularly their perceptions of overdose risk, are under-explored in the literature. This study aimed to address this gap by exploring how individuals and family members perceive the issue of overdose in relation to opioid analgesics, and their views of overdose prevention and potential interventions. Lived experiences from 12 individuals and family members living in Scotland were shared via in-depth qualitative interviews and analysed using NVivo and Framework. Coding was iterative and deductive. Analysis generated five themes: (1) living with pain and experiencing stigma; (2) taking more medication than prescribed; (3) side effects of medication; (4) overdose risk and prevention: the role of prescribers; and (5) attitudes towards naloxone to address overdose risk. Study findings have implications for the development of interventions and broader responses to reduce overdose risk among this group.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 17, 2021
Online Publication Date Jan 17, 2022
Publication Date 2023-06
Deposit Date Sep 20, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 22, 2022
Journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Print ISSN 0968-7637
Electronic ISSN 1465-3370
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 30
Issue 3
Pages 229-240
Keywords Chronic pain, prescription opioids, qualitative research, overdose prevention, naloxone
Public URL


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