INTRODUCTION: Recent media coverage suggests that elderly patients sell their prescribed opioids for additional income
Participants had been living with pain for a mean of 14.2 years; most common conditions included chronic back/neck problems and arthritis/rheumatism. Around half (43%) were currently prescribed one opioid, and 55% had been prescribed 2-5 opioids; the most common was oxycodone.
RESULTS: Forty-two participants (4%) reported ever supplying prescribed opioids to another person; one participant reported receiving payment.
Participants who supplied opioids to others were younger and engaged in a greater number of aberrant behaviours relating to their opioid medication , including tampering with doses, taking opioids by alternative routes, seeing doctors to obtain extra opioids and refilling prescriptions early.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Few people with chronic non-cancer pain divert their opioids to others. Media reports of elderly patients selling their opioids to supplement their income may be reflective of exceptional cases. Future studies may investigate the extent to which other patient groups divert prescription opioids to the illicit marketplace.