Challenges in the management of pain in hospital patients with opioid use disorder
evidence and practice    

Challenges in the management of pain in hospital patients with opioid use disorder

Rebecca Martinez Staff Nurse, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Brighton, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your understanding of the complex issues in relation to managing pain in hospital patients with opioid use disorder

  • To recognise the stigma that may be experienced by patients with opioid use disorder

  • To consider strategies you could use in your practice to improve pain management in patients with opioid use disorder

This article explores the challenges and barriers to the effective nursing management of pain in patients with a history of opioid use disorder. It also identifies recommendations for improving patient care and possible areas for further research. The author examined the relevant literature, which revealed that patients with opioid use disorder may experience stigmatisation by nurses; such negative attitudes are often in conflict with nurses’ professional and ethical duties. This issue is compounded by a lack of knowledge and understanding of dependence, addiction and withdrawal. It was also identified that patients often recognise the effects of stigma and this can cause resentment, frustration and anxiety, in some cases leading to aggressive or disruptive behaviours that reinforce negative stereotypes of people who use opioids. A breakdown in the nurse-patient relationship can result in suboptimal pain management in this often-marginalised patient group. Therefore, effective pain management relies on a nurse-patient relationship that minimises anxiety, as well as multidisciplinary team collaboration.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11521

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Martinez R (2021) Challenges in the management of pain in hospital patients with opioid use disorder. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2021.e11521

Published online: 01 February 2021

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Try 1 month’s access for just £1 and get:

Your subscription package includes:
  • Full access to and the Nursing Standard app
  • The monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student
Already subscribed? Log in

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now