The Use of Opioid Analgesics for Chronic Pain: Minimizing the Risk for Harm.
Am J Gastroenterol. 2014 Sep 10;2(1):3-8
Authors: Argoff CE, Viscusi ER
Chronic noncancer pain is common and consequential, affecting ∼100 million people in the United States alone and costing, when direct and indirect costs are combined, in excess of $635 billion. For certain individuals, opioids may be an effective option for the management of chronic pain; however, a series of critical decisions must be made before prescribing opioids to ensure that their potential benefits and possible risks are appropriately and realistically addressed. A thorough history, physical examination, and appropriate testing, including an assessment of risk for substance abuse, misuse, or addiction, should be conducted in patients who are being considered for opioid therapy. Proactively developing a treatment plan that matches the needs and expectations of the patient, while minimizing the potential for substance abuse, is central to the success of pain management. Current standard of care suggests that for most patients, a trial of nonopioid therapies should generally be tried first. There is no single opioid of choice that universally provides the best outcomes for all patients; thus, it is critical for the health-care practitioner to become familiar with the available subclasses, formulations, and modes of administration, and base the treatment plan on clinical experience with the drug, prior patient experience, the availability of the formulation, and cost and coverage. Pain is a dynamic phenomenon in that its characteristics and response to treatment evolve over time, as does the patient's general health state. Both positive and negative changes over time may necessitate a change in medication. Opioids can be prescribed safely and effectively, and when used with appropriate attention to individual patient characteristics may have a positive impact on pain and function. When contemplating initiation of opioid analgesics, clinicians would do well to make it clear to their patient that they will be prescribed on a trial basis with a clear exit strategy for discontinuing such treatment if there is no clear benefit including lack of analgesia, insurmountable adverse effects, and/or frank misuse or abuse of the prescribed drug.
PMID: 25207607 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]