Patient fear of addiction is a well-documented barrier to the use of analgesic medications for cancer pain control. Over the past 2 decades in the US, an “opioid crisis” has arisen, accompanied by risk messages delivered through news outlets, public health education, and patient-provider communication. The purpose of this study was to determine if patient-related barriers to cancer pain management-specifically, fears of addiction-and related pain outcomes (pain severity, pain interference with daily life, and adequacy of pain management) have worsened over the last 20 years. A sample of 157 outpatients with active recurrent or active metastatic cancer completed the Barriers Questionnaire-II (BQ-II) and measures of pain and analgesic use. We identified 7 comparison studies published between 2002 and 2020 that reported patient-related barriers using the BQ-II. Significant linear relationships were found between later year of publication and greater fear of addiction (Harmful Effect subscale score, B=.0350, R2=.0347, F1,637=23.19, p<.0001) and between year of publication and more pain management barriers overall (total BQ-II score, B=.039, R2=.065, F1,923=73.79, p<.0001). Relationships between BQ-II scores (harmful effect and total) and pain outcomes did not change over time. Despite worsening in patient-related barriers, the proportion of patients with adequate versus inadequate analgesic use did not differ over time. Notably, 40% of participants reported inadequate analgesic use, a statistic that has not improved in 20 years. Additional research is necessary to clarify factors contributing to changing beliefs. Findings indicate a continuing need for clinical and possibly system/policy-level interventions to support adequate cancer pain management.
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