Assessment tools for problematic opioid use in palliative care: a scoping review

Publication type
Journal article
Lau J, Mazzotta P, Fazelzad R, Ryan S, Tedesco A, Smith AJ, Sud A, Furlan AD, Zimmermann C
Date published
2021 May 01
Palliative Medicine
1295– 1322
Open Access?

Background: Screening for problematic opioid use is increasingly recommended in patients receiving palliative care. Aim: To identify tools used to assess for the presence or risk of problematic opioid use in palliative care. Design: Scoping review. Data sources: Bibliographic databases (inception to January 31, 2020), reference lists, and grey literature were searched to find primary studies reporting on adults receiving palliative care and prescription opioids to manage symptoms from advanced cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, or end-stage organ diseases; and included tools to assess for problematic opioid use. There were no restrictions based on study design, location, or language. Results: We identified 42 observational studies (total 14,431 participants) published between 2009 and 2020 that used questionnaires (n = 32) and urine drug tests (n = 21) to assess for problematic opioid use in palliative care, primarily in US (n = 38) and outpatient palliative care settings (n = 36). The questionnaires were Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, and Eye-opener (CAGE, n = 8), CAGE-Adapted to Include Drugs (CAGE-AID, n = 6), Opioid Risk Tool (n = 9), Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain (SOAPP; n = 3), SOAPP-Revised (n = 2), and SOAPP-Short Form (n = 5). Only two studies' primary objectives were to evaluate a questionnaire's psychometric properties in patients receiving palliative care. There was wide variation in how urine drug tests were incorporated into palliative care; frequency of abnormal urine drug test results ranged from 8.6% to 70%. Conclusion: Given the dearth of studies using tools developed or validated specifically for patients receiving palliative care, further research is needed to inform clinical practice and policy regarding problematic opioid use in palliative care.