The past, present and future of opioid withdrawal assessment: a scoping review of scales and technologies. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: A common challenge with all opioid use disorder treatment paths is withdrawal management. When withdrawal symptoms are not effectively monitored and managed, they lead to relapse which often leads to deadly overdose. A prerequisite for effective opioid withdrawal management is early identification and assessment of withdrawal symptoms. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this research was to describe the type and content of opioid withdrawal monitoring methods, including surveys, scales and technology, to identify gaps in research and practice that could inform the design and development of novel withdrawal management technologies. METHODS: A scoping review of literature was conducted. PubMed, EMBASE and Google Scholar were searched using a combination of search terms. RESULTS: Withdrawal scales are the main method of assessing and quantifying opioid withdrawal intensity. The search yielded 18 different opioid withdrawal scales used within the last 80years. While traditional opioid withdrawal scales for patient monitoring are commonly used, most scales rely heavily on patients' self-report and frequent observations, and generally suffer from lack of consensus on the criteria used for evaluation, mode of administration, type of reporting (e.g., scales used), frequency of administration, and assessment window. CONCLUSIONS: It is timely to investigate how opioid withdrawal scales can be complemented or replaced with reliable monitoring technologies. Use of noninvasive wearable sensors to continuously monitor physiologic changes associated with opioid withdrawal represents a potential to extend monitoring outside clinical setting.

published proceedings

  • BMC Med Inform Decis Mak

altmetric score

  • 7.65

author list (cited authors)

  • Nuamah, J. K., Sasangohar, F., Erraguntla, M., & Mehta, R. K.

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Nuamah, Joseph K||Sasangohar, Farzan||Erraguntla, Madhav||Mehta, Ranjana K

publication date

  • June 2019