Nav: Home

Research finds opioids may help chronic pain, a little

December 18, 2018

Hamilton, ON (October 18, 2018) - Use of opioids for patients with chronic, non-cancer pain may help, but not a lot.

In a study published today by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), McMaster University researchers reviewed 96 clinical trials with more than 26,000 participants and found opioids provide only small improvements in pain, physical functioning and sleep quality compared to a placebo.

The opioids, however, also increase the risk of vomiting, drowsiness, constipation, dizziness, nausea, dry mouth, and itching.

The researchers' analysis also found low to moderate quality evidence showing similar benefits for pain and physical functioning between opioids and non-opioid alternatives such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, and synthetic cannabinoids.

The study is important as there are an estimated 50 million Americans and six million Canadians living with chronic non-cancer pain, many who are prescribed opioid medications.

"Despite widespread use, there is not enough known about the benefits and harms of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain," said Jason Busse, lead author of the study and a researcher with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care at McMaster University.

"We found that, compared to a placebo, 12 per cent more patients treated with opioids will experience pain relief, 8 per cent more will notice an improvement in their physical functioning, and about 6 per cent more will find improvement in their sleep quality.

"These are very modest effects, and opioids were not associated with any important improvement in social, role, or emotional functioning," said Busse, who is also an associate professor of anesthesia at McMaster.

"In addition to the side effects we found can result from opioid use, these medications are associated with addiction, overdose, and death. Given their risks, modest benefits, and the comparable effectiveness of alternatives, our results support that opioids should not be first line therapy for chronic non-cancer pain," he said.
-end-
The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Health Canada.

For more information:

Veronica McGuire
Media Coordinator
Faculty of Health Sciences
McMaster University
vmcguir@mcmaster.ca
905-525-9140, ext. 22169

McMaster University

Related Pain Articles:

Pain researchers get a common language to describe pain
Pain researchers around the world have agreed to classify pain in the mouth, jaw and face according to the same system.
It's not just a pain in the head -- facial pain can be a symptom of headaches too
A new study finds that up to 10% of people with headaches also have facial pain.
New opioid speeds up recovery without increasing pain sensitivity or risk of chronic pain
A new type of non-addictive opioid developed by researchers at Tulane University and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System accelerates recovery time from pain compared to morphine without increasing pain sensitivity, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.
The insular cortex processes pain and drives learning from pain
Neuroscientists at EPFL have discovered an area of the brain, the insular cortex, that processes painful experiences and thereby drives learning from aversive events.
Pain, pain go away: new tools improve students' experience of school-based vaccines
Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have teamed up with educators, public health practitioners and grade seven students in Ontario to develop and implement a new approach to delivering school-based vaccines that improves student experience.
Pain sensitization increases risk of persistent knee pain
Becoming more sensitive to pain, or pain sensitization, is an important risk factor for developing persistent knee pain in osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study by researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) School of Rehabilitation and Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont Research Centre (CRHMR) in collaboration with researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).
Becoming more sensitive to pain increases the risk of knee pain not going away
A new study by researchers in Montreal and Boston looks at the role that pain plays in osteoarthritis, a disease that affects over 300 million adults worldwide.
Pain disruption therapy treats source of chronic back pain
People with treatment-resistant back pain may get significant and lasting relief with dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation therapy, an innovative treatment that short-circuits pain, suggests a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2018 annual meeting.
Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Someday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology.
Peripheral nerve block provides some with long-lasting pain relief for severe facial pain
A new study has shown that use of peripheral nerve blocks in the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TGN) may produce long-term pain relief.
More Pain News and Pain Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.