• Article

Promethazine use among chronic pain patients

BACKGROUND: Concomitant use of opioids and promethazine has been reported in various subpopulations, including methadone maintenance patients, injection drug users, and at-risk teenagers. Promethazine is thought to potentiate the 'high' from opioids. However, to date, the prevalence of promethazine use has not been determined among patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain. METHODS: Urine samples from 921 patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain were analyzed for promethazine. Demographic data, toxicology results, and opioid prescription information were obtained through medical record abstraction. We assessed the prevalence and factors associated with promethazine use with bivariable and multivariable statistics. RESULTS: The prevalence of promethazine-positive urine samples among chronic pain patients was 9%. Only 50% of promethazine-positive patients had an active prescription for promethazine. Having benzodiazepine-positive urine with no prescription for a benzodiazepine was statistically associated with promethazine use. Also, having a prescription for methadone for pain or being in methadone maintenance for the treatment of opioid dependence were both statistically associated with promethazine use. Chronic pain patients prescribed only a long-acting opioid were more likely to have promethazine-positive urines than patients prescribed a short-acting opioid. CONCLUSIONS: The study provides compelling evidence of significant promethazine use in chronic pain patients. Promethazine should be considered as a potential drug of abuse that could cause increased morbidity in opioid-using populations


Lynch, KL., Shapiro, BJ., Coffa, D., Novak, S., & Kral, A. (2015). Promethazine use among chronic pain patients. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 150, 92-97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.02.023