A web-based self-management program may reduce aberrant drug behaviors and pain catastrophizing in patients with chronic pain treated with opioids, a new study, published in  Pain Medicine , suggests.

In this prospective study, 110 patients treated with opioids for their moderate to severe chronic pain (score ≥5 on the 0 to 10 Brief Pain Inventory; pain for ≥3 months) who displayed aberrant drug-related behavior, were randomly assigned to receive standard care with or without a web-based " Take Charge of Pain " program.

The Take Charge of Pain program is based on  cognitive behavioral therapy  principles. The program was designed to restructure dysfunctional thinking about pain and provide pain coping skills.

Pain severity, pain interference, and aberrant drug behavior during the 12-week intervention and at 1 and 3 months post-intervention were the primary outcomes. Secondary outcomes included pain catastrophizing and pain-related emergency department visits.

Aberrant drug-related behavior was found to be reduced in patients receiving the web-based program in addition to standard care vs. standard care alone during the treatment period ( P  = .001). Both groups had similar reductions in aberrant drug-related behavior at 1- and 3-month follow-up.

Pain severity and pain interference were reduced from baseline during the intervention period in both groups, and the reductions were maintained during post-intervention follow-up. During the intervention period,  pain catastrophizing  was reduced in the web-based program group relative to the standard of care ( P  = .04).

In a similar manner, the percentage of patients reporting a reduced number of pain-related emergency department visits was lower in the web-based group during the entire study period ( P  = .004).

Honoria Guarino, principal investigator at the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, explained that "self-management interventions, many of them based on cognitive behavior therapy principles and techniques, have been found to be broadly effective in taking patients better cope with their pain, reduce their pain-related distress and mitigate the negative effect that pain has often been on their lives, and, unlike opioid medications, behavioral interventions are very safe, without the serious side effects and risks associated with opioids. "


Dr. Guarino stated that "broader dissemination of tools like the Take Charge of Pain program, if found effective, may have an important role to play in reducing chronic pain patients' reliance on opioid medications and may, therefore, contribute to efforts to address the epidemic opioid. "