PAINWeek 2022 Poster

Millennium Health and Penn State College of Medicine Poster Presented at PAINWeek Regarding Illicit Drug Use Among People with Chronic Pain

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – September 13, 2022 – A study led by Monika Holbein, MD of Penn State College of Medicine and co-authored by Millennium Health researchers, demonstrated that urine specimens from pain management practices tested positive for heroin, illicit fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine more often in patients who were not being prescribed opioids than for those patients who were prescribed opioids.

This retrospective study was presented as a poster at the PAINWeek 2022 National Conference on Pain for Frontline Practitioners. It included 188,786 specimens from patients treated in pain management practices.   

When compared to those not prescribed an opioid, those prescribed an opioid were:

  • 47% less likely to be positive for illicit fentanyl 
  • 52% less likely to be positive for heroin
  • 63% less likely to be positive for methamphetamine
  • 32% less likely to be positive for cocaine

“These findings suggest that avoidance of opioids in the treatment of some people with chronic pain does not automatically translate to less use of non-prescribed or illicit drugs on their part. Present policies attempt to protect people with chronic pain from substance use by not exposing them to opioids and they may need to be re-examined. A subset of patients with pain are at risk of turning to nonprescribed and or illicit drug use, such as counterfeit opioids, to manage their pain if, presumably, they are unable to obtain sufficient pain relief in the context of their pain management plan. At a time when counterfeit opioids and other illicit drugs are tainted with lethal fentanyl, this is exceedingly dangerous; it is important that these individuals are monitored with urine drug testing for safety whether opioids are prescribed or not,” said Dr. Holbein, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Palliative Medicine.

About Millennium Health

Millennium Health is an accredited specialty laboratory providing medication monitoring via definitive urine and oral fluid drug tests to support improved clinical decision-making as part of treatment for millions of Americans with chronic pain, mental illness, substance use disorders, and other health conditions. Drug testing is used to obtain objective information about patients’ recent use of prescription medications and/or illicit drugs and helps monitor the effectiveness of treatment plans. We also conduct real-time tracking of emerging drug use trends to help researchers, public health officials, and policymakers address the significant increase in drug overdose deaths.