The risks of taking prescription opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, such as headaches and low back pain, outweigh the benefits, according to a new position statement from the American Academy of Neurology authored by Dr. Gary Franklin of the University of Washington School of Public Health.
[Photo: Dr. Gary Franklin]
“More than 100,000 people have died from prescription opioid use since policies changed in the late 1990s to allow much more liberal long-term use,” said Dr. Franklin, research professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and adjunct research professor of health services. “There have been more deaths from prescription opioids in the most vulnerable young to middle-aged groups than from firearms and car accidents. Doctors, states, institutions, and patients need to work together to stop this epidemic.”
The position paper, published in Neurology, calls opioid-related deaths and overdoses a “rapidly emerging public health epidemic.” Opioids, or narcotics, are pain medications including morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, or a combination for the drugs with acetaminophen.
Studies have shown that half of patients taking opioids for at least three months are still on the medication five years later, Dr. Franklin writes. Opioids may provide short-term relief, but there is no substantial evidence for maintaining pain relief or improved function over long periods of time without serious risk of overdose, dependence, or addiction, the review concludes. The article includes suggestions for doctors to prescribe opioids more safely and effectively.
Read more: http://www.neurology.org/content/83/14/1277