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Tapentadol is the least common opioid found in admission urine drug-test results at an intensive outpatient opioid-use disorder treatment program in Ohio: A brief report

Adam Rzetelny, PhD, Diana Meske, PhD, Parag Patel, MD, FACOG, FASAM, Steven Passik, PhD


Background: Previous data suggest that tapentadol, an atypical opioid with a putative dual mechanism of action, has relatively low rates of abuse. A better understanding of the rates of abuse among different prescription opioids may help clinicians when considering their potential risks and benefits. The results of urine drug tests (UDTs) may provide a unique opportunity to help answer this question.

Method: To investigate different rates of prescription-opioid abuse in this retrospective study, we examined urine drug test results from patients seeking treatment at four facilities of an opioid-use-disorder (OUD) treatment program in Ohio. Urine specimens were collected on admission, one from each patient, in the regular course of care. The opioids reviewed in the present study were tapentadol, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and tramadol. Drug dispensing data, including morphine-milligram equivalents (MME) dispensed, were examined to adjust for the relative prevalence of each opioid being examined.

Results: Data from 4,162 patients were examined. Tapentadol was the least common finding in UDT results in this cohort and remained so after adjusting for drug availability. The percentage of specimens positive for a given opioid ranged from 0.12 percent (tapentadol) to 7.04 percent (oxycodone). The availability and MME adjustments resulted in a change of rank order, with tapentadol remaining the lowest but tramadol replacing oxycodone as the prescription opioid with the highest rate of abuse.

Conclusions: In this sample of UDT results from patients seeking treatment at an OUD program in Ohio, tapentadol was the least frequent finding among the opioids examined, and this remained true when adjusting for dispensing data. Factors potentially contributing to this difference may include pharmacological properties unique to tapentadol. Several important limitations notwithstanding, these findings are consistent with previous real-world evidence and warrant an ongoing line of inquiry.



opioid abuse, diversion, drug testing, tapentadol

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