Opioid-induced Euphoria Among Emergency Department Patients With Acute Severe Pain: An Analysis of Data From a Randomized Trial

Lorena Abril Ochoa, Farnia Naeem, Deborah J. White, Polly E. Bijur, Benjamin W. Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Parenteral opioids are commonly used to treat acute severe pain. We measured pleasurable sensations in patients administered intravenous analgesics to determine if these sensations were associated with receipt of an opioid, after controlling for relief of pain. Pleasurable sensations not accounted for by relief of pain were considered opioid-induced euphoria. Methods: These data were from a randomized study of 1 mg of hydromorphone versus 120 mg of lidocaine for abdominal pain. To assess euphoria, participants were asked to provide a 0 to 10 response to each of these questions: 1) How good did the medication make you feel? 2) How high did the medication make you feel? and 3) How happy did the medication make you feel? Pain at baseline and 30 minutes was also measured on a 0 to 10 scale. To determine the relative importance of pain relief versus medication type, we built three linear regression models in which each euphoria question was the dependent variable and pain relief, medication type, and medication-induced side effects were the independent variables. Results: Seventy-seven patients received lidocaine and 77 hydromorphone. Hydromorphone patients reported greater pain improvement than lidocaine patients (mean difference = 1.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.6 to 2.3) and higher scores on all three euphoria questions (“feeling good” difference = 1.9, 95% CI = 0.8 to 3.0; “feeling high” difference = 1.5, 95% CI = 0.4 to 2.7; “feeling happy” difference = 1.7, 95% CI = 0.6 to 2.8). In the regression models, hydromorphone administration (β-coefficient = 0.16, p = 0.03) and pain relief (β-coefficient = 0.45, p < 0.01) were both associated with “feeling good.” “Feeling high” and “feeling happy” were associated with pain improvement (p < 0.01) but not with hydromorphone administration (p = 0.07 for “high” and p = 0.06 for “happy”). Medication-induced side effects were not associated with these measures of euphoria. Conclusion: Among emergency department patients with acute pain, hydromorphone-induced euphoria, though measurable, was generally less important for patients than relief of pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1100-1105
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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