Minimizing Pills and Maximizing Skills: Achieving Successful Opioid Cessation in Chronic Pain

Author: Jennifer M. Hah

Although long regarded as an appropriate standard of care for treating acute and cancer pain, the use of prescription opioids to treat chronic benign pain conditions has been highly controversial. The lack of empirical support in conjunction with the increased prevalence of prescription opioid abuse has subsequently led professional and regulatory boards, as well as the general public, to become more critical of physician prescribing practices. As a result, patients who were once prescribed high doses of opioid medication are now being told that they need to reduce or eliminate their reliance on this form of treatment. How can individuals successfully eliminate use of a substance that they have relied on for an extended period of time? A pain physician will review current literature related to the use of opioids and will discuss the medical challenges associated with weaning individuals off of this class of drug. A psychologist will then speak about the role of interdisciplinary treatment programs in facilitating opioid cessation while concurrently improving patients' functional outcomes. Emphasis will be placed on the critical role that psychological and behavioral interventions play in this process, and the evidence which supports their inclusion.

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