Pilot Study of Combined Treatment for Veterans with Chronic Pain and Opiate Misuse

Opioid prescription in the treatment of chronic pain is frequent and carries a consequent risk of poor treatment outcome, as well as higher morbidity and mortality in a clinically significant number of patients, particularly those who meet criteria or opioid dependence. Despite the alarming increases (140% increase from 1992 to 2003) in prescription opiate misuse, abuse, and dependence nationally in the United States, there are few treatment options available that target both pain-related interference and opioid dependence among patients with chronic pain. In military veterans, this issue is of particular importance as numerous reports indicate increasing use of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain, as well as increasing opioid-related problems, specifically in those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres [Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND)]. To date, there are no evidenced-based treatment options which aim to both maximize effective functioning in Veterans with chronic pain while simultaneously addressing problematic opioid use. The overall aim of the present study will be to determine the feasibility of an integrated psychosocial treatment in veterans with chronic pain, who also have evidence of opioid-related misuse. To examine this aim, we will utilize a randomized design to assess the feasibility of integrating two empirically supported interventions: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for chronic pain and Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention for substance use and misuse. Feasibility will be assessed by examining rates of recruitment and retention of participants through a six month follow-up. In addition, we will evaluate progress within-treatment on specific therapy targets to aid in the identification of potential treatment mechanisms. The results of this study will directly inform treatment of chronic pain patients and represents a significant advance in the growing and understudied problem of opiate misuse among chronic pain patients. In addition to addressing the question of whether the treatment is feasible, it will further examine issues of treatment mechanisms to better inform the design of a randomized and controlled trial assessing treatment efficacy.