Category: Health Psychology / Behavioral Medicine - Adult
Opioid dependence and addiction has become a significant public health concern in the United States, particularly Appalachia, and has led to concerns regarding prescribing opioids. West Virginia is the state with the highest number of overdose-related deaths and the third-highest rate of opioid prescribing in the country (CDC, 2014; 2016). The role of psychologists in this context can include assessing risk, providing alternative treatments such as cognitive-behavioral skills for coping with pain and therefore limiting need for opioids, and/or treating opioid addiction and dependence. However, more knowledge is needed regarding the interplay of psychosocial factors, such as emotion regulation, and opioid dependence among chronic pain patients, who can frequently be prescribed opioids on a long-term basis. The current study examined the association between emotion dysregulation and risk for opioid misuse. Participants were chronic pain patients attending a behavioral medicine clinic in West Virginia for routine psychological evaluation (n = 82). Emotion dysregulation, as measured by the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS-18; Victor & Klonsky, 2016), accounted for a significant amount of variance above and beyond ratings of severity of pain in overall risk for opioid misuse (SOAPP-R; β = .74, p < .001, ΔR2 = .52); and current risk for opioid misuse (COMM; β = .66, p < .001, ΔR2 = .43). When subscales of the DERS were examined separately, lack of awareness of one’s emotions was not significantly associated with risk, whereas all other subscales were significantly associated with SOAPP-R and COMM scores. These results indicate the importance of evaluating emotion regulation strategies and difficulties among chronic pain patients who may be at risk for opioid misuse. In addition, these results suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy focusing on emotion regulation strategies should be researched as a possible intervention to reduce risk for opioid misuse.