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Keywords:

  • Clinical Assessment Tool;
  • Prescription Opioid Monitoring;
  • Ethics;
  • Diagnosing Prescription Opioid Addiction;
  • Federal Regulation

Abstract

Background

Clinicians who prescribe chronic opioid therapy are concerned about identifying patients who are at-risk for misusing, abusing, or diverting (i.e. selling) their pain medications. Experts have specifically recommended using clinical assessment tools as part of a comprehensive plan for mitigating opioid-related risks. These tools are typically short, standardized questionnaires that screen for the presence or absence of putatively aberrant medication-related behaviors thought to be predictive of addiction. Interestingly, these tools remain wholly unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other authorities.

Objective

This paper reviews how these instruments are used and the normative assumptions informing their use, fully appreciating that these screening tools do not have the power to diagnose illness or an addiction disorder.

Conclusion

We conclude that these clinical assessment tools should be regulated because, as we will argue, any screening tool that can assess patients for the potential for opioid-related aberrant behaviors are powerful instruments that merit additional scrutiny and oversight—perhaps by the FDA and other regulatory agencies.