Pain, Substance Use Disorders and Opioid Analgesic Prescription Patterns in Veterans with Hepatitis C

Ashlee J. Whitehead, Steven K. Dobscha, Benjamin J. Morasco, Samantha Ruimy, Cara Bussell, Peter Hauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


To examine the prevalence of pain, substance use disorder (SUD) diagnoses, and opioid analgesic prescription patterns among veterans infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), a retrospective review of the medical records of 8,224 HCV-positive (HCV+) veterans was performed. Twenty-nine percent and 46% of HCV+ patients were prescribed opioids in the prior one and three years, respectively. Sixty-seven percent of HCV+ patients had documented pain diagnoses and 56% had SUD diagnoses. Patients with co-occurring pain and SUD were less likely to be prescribed opioids than patients with pain only (prior year: 36% vs. 43%, P < 0.001; three years: 56% vs. 60%, P < 0.01). There were no differences in numbers of early opioid prescription fills or numbers of opioid prescribers when comparing patients with co-occurring pain and SUD to patients with pain only. Veterans with co-occurring pain and opioid use disorder had fewer early opioid fills than veterans with pain only (prior year: 2.6 vs. 5.3 days, P < 0.01; three years: 6.1 vs. 13.4 days, P < 0.001). These data demonstrate that pain and SUD diagnoses were common among HCV+ patients, and that opioids were frequently prescribed. Co-occurring SUD was not associated with indicators of prescription opioid misuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Opioids
  • hepatitis C
  • medication misuse
  • pain management
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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