Chronic Pain Might Worsen When Treated With Opioids
A new study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences casts doubt on the efficacy of opioid painkillers, after finding that rather than easing chronic pain, opioid drugs might actually increase pain. The study is significant on a number of levels, not least because of the sheer scale of opioid use -- e.g., oxycodone, morphine, codeine, and fentanyl -- in the United States: close to 250 million opioid prescriptions were written in the U.S. in 2013 alone, while opioid overdoses are responsible for roughly 80 deaths across the country every day.
In the study at the University of Colorado at Boulder, researchers found that Just five days of morphine treatment increased chronic pain in rats, and that the effect did not decrease immediately when the drug was taken away, but persisted for months afterward.
"The implications for people taking opioids like morphine, oxycodone and methadone are great," said study co-leader, Prof. Linda Watkins, CU-Boulder, "since we show the short-term decision to take such opioids can have devastating consequences of making pain worse and longer lasting. This is a very ugly side to opioids that had not been recognized before."