Excellent and balanced WebMD article about long-term opiate use

This is the most balanced information about opiates and addiction I’ve seen so far.  It explains why pain patients need not fear addiction:


Finally, someone dares say the “inconvenient truth”:  Pain itself can be just as damaging as taking opiates.

Risk of Uncontrolled Pain

Some people don’t want to use pain medicines because they fear becoming addicted. That can lead to a different set of problems that stem from poorly controlled pain.

“If pain is inadequately treated, we see poor functional level, a diminished quality of life, we often see mood disorders such as depression, and we see an increased risk of suicide,” Reisfield says.

What Addiction Is … and Isn’t:

“Addiction means the individual has lost control over the use of the drug. They’re using it compulsively, there are consequences to using the drug, and they continue to use it anyway,” says Gary Reisfield, MD. He’s a chronic pain and addiction specialist at the University of Florida.

Tolerance and dependence are not the same as addiction.

Tolerance is common in people using opioids (such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) for chronic pain. It means the body has become used to the drug, and it has less effect at a given dose, Reisfield says.

Dependence means that there are unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if a person abruptly stops taking a drug.

People who aren’t addicted can develop drug tolerance or dependence. And both can be absent in people who are addicted to certain drugs.

Got it, folks?

Especially pleased to see this study mentioned:

A 2008 study that compiled previous research found that about 3% of people with chronic non-cancer pain using opioid drugs abused them or became addicted. The risk was less than 1% in people who had never abused drugs or been addicted.

2 thoughts on “Excellent and balanced WebMD article about long-term opiate use

  1. Zyp Czyk Post author

    The vast majority of pain patients I know have been taking opiates for years, and they work for the pain. Still the opiophobes insist that “opiates don’t work long-term”. There are no good long-term studies and there may never be due to the difficulties of setting up double-blind experiments.

    “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!”



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