Chronic Pain & Opioids – Debunking the Myths

Common Sense for Drug Policy: Chronic Pain & Opioids — Debunking the Myths

Though this list is from 2005, it seems most people (and doctors) still haven’t gotten the message: “opioids are among the safest drugs available”

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is a progressive disease of the nervous system, caused by failure of the body’s internal pain control systems.

Chronic pain is a malignancy, in the sense that when it goes untreated, it increases in intensity and spreads to areas that weren’t previously affected, damaging the sufferer’s health and functioning.  

What about those ‘OxyContin deaths’ reported in the media?

“OxyContin deaths” occur in habitual substance abusers, not patients, and are usually the result of combining the drug with overdoses of alcohol and other drugs.

Why treat chronic pain with opioids?

Opioids are substances naturally produced within the body to regulate pain. They are commonly known as endorphins.

Will I get addicted, and how can I tell if I am?

Scientific research indicates that opioid addiction in pain patients is rare. If opioids make your life better by controlling pain, you are a pain patient.

What are the goals of treatment?

Reducing suffering through restoration of functioning in life activities, as close to normal as possible.

Will I have to take larger and larger doses to control my pain?

For most patients, their dose remains stable over long periods of time.

Are opioids dangerous?

opioids are among the safest drugs available.

Will I get high, or lose control?

When opioids are taken on a regular schedule, tolerance quickly develops, and the psychological “high” goes away, leaving the user feeling completely normal

Long-term opioid users, as a group, have driving records for accidents and violations that are the same as everyone else’s.

Are there any side effects?

Constipation, nausea, itching, insomnia, and drowsiness commonly occur

Will the medicine damage my liver?

No. Opioids occur naturally in the body, and are not harmful to any organ system. They can be taken safely for a lifetime, if necessary

Will I hurt myself because I don’t feel any pain?

No. Opioids improve functioning by reducing pain levels. They don’t remove all the pain, or the ability to perceive new pain.

What is the correct dose?

The amount that allows optimal functioning is the correct dose

Will I become dependent?

You may. Dependence is a physical phenomenon, not a sign of addiction.

Why won’t my doctor prescribe enough medicine to control my pain?

He is too scared. As part of the War on Drugs, law enforcement is conducting a witch-hunt against pain doctors who prescribe opioids compassionately.  



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