Studies Find Opioids Ineffective

“Opioids are often ineffective for some types of pain at any dose. Pain intensity scores were unchanged postoperatively in patients receiving titrated opioid analgesia in accordance with Agency for Health Care Policy and Research guidelines when compared with a matched control group before guideline implementation. None of our patients with chronic nonmalignant pain receiving opioids according to protocol had complete relief of pain.

Although opioids themselves may not cause addiction, the high prevalence of addiction in the general population and the even higher comorbidity of addictive disorders with psychiatric illness mean that a substantial minority of patients with chronic pain treated with opioids display problem behavior that makes opioid management arduous, if not impossible. The proportion of problem cases appears to be 10% to 15% of patients with chronic pain selected for opioid maintenance analgesia.

It is true that many patients do tolerate remarkably high daily doses of opioids and are able to function as well as before using the drugs. However, it is equally true that at least as many patients seem to be unable to tolerate any opioid at even the lowest dose. We must be respectful of the serious array of side effects of these agents. Tachyphylaxis and gradual adjustment of opioids may avoid respiratory arrest, but constipation, nausea, sedation, and confusion often become limiting adverse effects. ”

Links to articles and studies:

Opioids for chronic nonmalignant pain
Choosing suitable candidates for long-term therapy.

Systematic Review: Opioid Treatment for Chronic Back Pain: Prevalence, Efficacy, and Association with Addiction
Opioids are commonly prescribed for chronic back pain and may be efficacious for short-term pain relief. Long-term efficacy (≥16 weeks) is unclear. Substance use disorders are common in patients taking opioids for back pain, and aberrant medication-taking behaviors occur in up to 24% of cases.

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