UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The effect of depressive symptoms on pain in a substance-using population with persistent pain: a cross-sectional cohort study Voon, Pauline; Choi, JinCheol; Hayashi, Kanna; Milloy, M-J; Buxton, Jane A.; Kerr, Thomas


Background In light of the ongoing opioid overdose crisis, there is an urgent need for research on the impacts of mental health among people presenting with concurrent pain and substance use. This study examined the effect of depressive symptoms on pain severity and functional interference among people who use drugs (PWUD) during a community-wide overdose crisis. Methods From December 1st 2016 to December 31st 2018, 288 participants in two cohort studies of PWUD in Vancouver, Canada completed interviewer-administered questionnaires that included the Brief Pain Inventory and PROMIS Emotional Distress–Depression instruments. Generalized linear regression modelling (GLM) was used to examine the cross-sectional effect of depressive symptoms and other confounding factors on pain severity and interference. Results Moderate to severe depressive symptoms were significantly associated with greater pain-related functional interference (adjusted β = 1.24, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.33–2.15), but not significantly associated with greater average pain severity (adjusted β = 0.22, 95% CI = − 0.3 – 0.82), when controlling for confounding variables. Reported daily heroin use (adjusted β = 1.26, 95% CI = 0.47–2.05) and non-fatal overdose (adjusted β = 1.02, 95% CI = 0.08–1.96) were also significantly associated with greater pain-related functional interference. Conclusions In a substance-using population, greater pain-related functional interference was positively associated with depressive symptoms as well as overdose and daily heroin use. These findings emphasize the need to address the functional impact of pain, mental health comorbidity, and high-risk substance use that may contribute to overdose and other harms.

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