Opiate written behavioral agreements: A case for abandonment

Paul R. Helft, Jessica R. Williams, Robin J. Bandy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Written behavioral agreements (WBAs) are gaining popularity as part of the effort to manage the alarming increase in prescription drug abuse. The rationale for increased use of WBAs in managing patients with chronic pain is that they are believed to increase adherence to agreed-upon behaviors, reduce addiction to or diversion of prescription drugs, and satisfy informed consent requirements. However, there are no high-quality data to support their widespread use in any of these areas. The evidence used to support the use of WBAs is insufficient to justify their unfairness and the high risk of harm they pose to the doctor-patient relationship. Instead, we contend that WBAs are being used to provide leverage for severing relationships with some of our most challenging patients. We propose that physicians treating patients for chronic pain abandon the use of WBAs. Alternatives include open communication, detailed informed consent processes, carefully documented discussions, and most important, commitment to ongoing relationships even with difficult patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalPerspectives in Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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