Anger Management Style, Opioid Analgesic Use, and Chronic Pain Severity: A Test of the Opioid-Deficit Hypothesis
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Anger management style is related to both acute and chronic pain. Recent research suggests that individuals who predominantly express anger (anger-out) may report heightened chronic pain severity due in part to endogenous opioid antinociceptive dysfunction. If exogenous opioids serve to remediate opioid deficits, we predicted that regular use of opioid analgesics by chronic pain patients would alter these relationships such that anger-out would be related to chronic pain severity only among opioid-free patients. For 136 chronic pain patients, anger management style, depression, anxiety, pain severity, and use of opioid and antidepressant medication was assessed. Results of hierarchical multiple regressions to predict chronic pain severity showed: (a) a significant Anger-out × Opioid use interaction such that high Anger-out was associated with high pain severity only among patients not taking opioids; (b) controlling for depressed affect and anxiety did not affect this association; (c) the Anger-out × Antidepressant use interaction was nonsignificant; (d) Anger-in did not interact with use of any medication to affect pain severity. Results are consistent with an opioid-deficit hypothesis and suggest that regular use of opioid medications by patients high in anger expression may compensate for an endogenous opioid deficit, and mitigate the effects of elevated anger expression on chronic pain intensity.