Ignoring pain levels in studies on opioids

Here is an article promoted by “Pain Week”, spreading biased views of opioid pain management instead of advocating for pain patients.

Study Finds Worse Outcomes for Patients on Long-term Opioid Therapy – June 2016

Results of a small study of patients with sickle cell disease suggest that long-term opioid therapy may be contraindicated for treatment of their chronic pain.

The study, conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins found that patients who were prescribed long-term opioid therapy tended to score worse on measures of pain, fatigue, and activity levels than did those who were not on opioids.

This is crazy: they attribute our pain to the medicine we take to relieve our pain!  

Because opioids don’t remove pain completely, many of us still have to deal with considerable, and sometimes disabling, amounts of pain and fatigue.

What remains of our full pain and fatigue is assumed to be caused by our opioid pain medication. Yet, they always warn us that opioids will not remove all our pain, so this is entirely expected.

Nowhere mentioned is the fact that opioids are prescribed to treat the pain that they claim is caused by the very same opioids.

This is like saying that people taking more antacids have more indigestion than those than don’t. (Duh, that’s why people take antacids.)

Sickle cell disease, a genetic blood disorder affecting predominantly African Americans, causes extreme acute pain that is frequently treated with intravenous opioids medications.

Adult patients with the disease frequently develop chronic pain as well, and the reasons for the progression are not well understood. As advances in treatment of sickle cell disease have led to longer patient lifespans, the incidence of chronic pain has increased, and again is often treated with long-term opioid therapy

But in addition to elevated pain and fatigue, the study cohort who received long-term opioids showed higher levels of central sensitization, which may play a role in the development of chronic pain among patients with sickle cell disorder.  

This not stated logically in the order in which it occurs:

“patients with higher levels of pain or central sensitization
received long-term opioids.”

Instead of blaming pain, they blame the opioids.

Read a news story about the findings here. The journal abstract may be read here.




About PainWeek – the publisher of the above article

PAINWeek is more than an annual or regional conference. It is now the Pain Education Resource for Frontline Practitioners.

Selling this biased publication as a single source for practitioners is frightening.

As with most scientific studies these days, this publication refuses to recognize the simple fact that opioids are prescribed as a response to a patient presenting with pain.

Pain is the original condition that literally “causes” the secondary condition of being prescribed opioids.

Many of these studies differentiate their study groups by the secondary criteria of whether they are receiving opioid prescriptions.

But this is no different than differentiating them by pain level, yet pain levels are NEVER discussed.

The PAINWeek communications platform represents a single point of access for busy practitioners spanning live, digital, and print communications that will extend the energy and experience of our national and regional conferences throughout the year, and to a wider audience of frontline practitioners with an interest in pain management.

Also, until recently, none of the stories included a date on their web page, which already makes the information suspect because it cannot be placed in context. 

All scientific work is prominently dated for this reason, but I had to contact PAINWeek myself to get them to date their articles. 



2 thoughts on “Ignoring pain levels in studies on opioids

  1. Kathy C

    We are now in the Fact Free Era! The pain from sprained ankle or overdoing it at he Golf Course is exactly the same as long term Intractable Chronic Pain that lasts for years. Up is down, as we fall through the rabbit hole!

    Liked by 1 person


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