Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

A study of psychological pain in substance use disorder and its relationship to treatment outcome.


Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a major public health concern affecting an estimated 22.5 million individuals in the United States. The primary aim of this study was to characterize psychological pain in a cohort of patients participating in outpatient treatment for SUD. A secondary aim was to determine the relationships between pre-treatment assessments of psychological pain, depression, anxiety and hopelessness with treatment retention time and completion rates. Data was analyzed from 289 patients enrolled in an outpatient community drug treatment clinic in Southern California, U.S. A previously determined threshold score on the Mee-Bunney Psychological Pain Assessment Scale (MBP) was utilized to group patients into high and low-moderate scoring subgroups. The higher pain group scored higher on measures of anxiety, hopelessness and depression compared to those in the low-moderate pain group. Additionally, patients scoring in the higher psychological pain group exhibited reduced retention times in treatment and more than two-fold increased odds of dropout relative to patients with lower pre-treatment levels of psychological pain. Among all assessments, the correlation between psychological pain and treatment retention time was strongest. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that psychological pain is an important construct which correlates with relevant clinical outcomes in SUD. Furthermore, pre-treatment screening for psychological pain may help target higher-risk patients for clinical interventions aimed at improving treatment retention and completion rates.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View