Survey of Patients on Chronic Opioid Therapy Returns Discouraging Results

A fresh data point in the argument for multimodal approaches to chronic pain was presented last week at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2016 annual meeting. A survey of patients with chronic low back pain found that although they are more likely than patients with other pain presentations to receive prescriptions for opioids, the respondents so treated gained only limited pain relief, and experienced significant adverse effects from their medications. The survey evaluated 2,030 patients with low back pain, of whom almost 50% were receiving opioid therapy. Just 13% of these reported that opioids were “very successful” at relieving their pain. 75% additionally reported adverse effects from opioid medications that included constipation, drowsiness, cognitive impairment, and dependence.

Lead author Asokumar Buvanendran, MD, director of orthopedic anesthesia and vice chair for research at Rush University, Chicago commented “Patients are increasingly aware that opioids are problematic, but don’t know there are alternative treatment options.” These options include physical therapy, massage, interventional procedures, nerve ablation techniques, and biofeedback, he stated. Other medication classes, such as antidepressants and anti-inflammatories also should be considered, as the survey additionally found a significant minority (41%) of opioid recipients felt the pressure of stigma from opioid usage.  Read more about the survey findings here.

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