Real Patient Experience Insights Into Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain

Researchers led by the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education have compiled results from their analysis of more than 2 billion tweets and online posts to study the harmful side effects of opioid medication taken for chronic pain. The team asserts their belief that theirs is the first investigation of its kind to examine social media data related to gastrointestinal side effects from narcotics. In their online communications, patients detailed numerous GI issues from opioid therapy, including nausea, vomiting, and severe constipation that was even more severe than their underlying pain complaint. According to the researchers, this data reveals GI side effects often not captured by traditional clinical research. The study was published online in the Journal of Opioid Management.

In the study, researchers engaged a social media data service called Treato to collect and index patient and caregiver content from more than 3000 health-related websites. Treato reviewed 1.8 billion posts in its repository. The investigators then narrowed their search to 3303 relevant tweets and posts that mentioned GI side effects from narcotics medication. The online data additionally showed that many people on opioid therapy for chronic pain are not warned by their doctors of the potential side effects. Some patients turn to over-the-counter remedies or other solutions of questionable value without first consulting physicians. Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, director of Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research and director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Education commented: “By informing doctors and prescribers about these results, we can hopefully improve the communication and shared decision-making between doctor and patient around pain medications.”

Read more about how social media provides tools for patient engagement and education, here.

Read about migraine sufferers and tweets, here.

Read about the Cedars-Sinai study above, here.

The article abstract may be read here.


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