Patients taking opioid painkillers for chronic pain not associated with cancer -- conditions such as headaches, fibromyalgia and low-back pain -- are more likely to risk overdose, addiction and a range of debilitating side effects than they are to improve their ability to function, a leading physicians group declared Wednesday.
The long-term use of opioids may not, in the net, be beneficial even in patients with more severe pain conditions, including sickle-cell disease, destructive rheumatoid arthritis and severe neuropathic pain, the American Academy of Neurologists opined in a new position statement released Wednesday.
But even for patients who do appear to benefit from opioid narcotics, the neurology group warned, physicians who prescribe these drugs should be diligent in tracking a patient's dose increases, screening for a history of depression or substance abuse, looking for signs of misuse and insisting as a condition of continued use that opioids are improving a patient's function.
In disseminating a new position paper on opioid painkillers for chronic non-cancer pain, the American Academy of Neurology is hardly the first physicians group to sound the alarm on these medications and call for greater restraint in prescribing them.
But it appears to be the first to lay out a comprehensive set of research-based guidelines that...
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