Concerns have been recently raised about the use of opioid drugs to treat patients in severe pain because of the risk of addiction. Moreover, a new report seems to suggest that many doctors have to rely on experience rather than scientific evidence when it comes to prescribing these drugs.
The National Institutes of Health in the US has convened a panel to look at data regarding the effectiveness of opioid drugs. What the panel has found is that, in some cases, the doses being prescribed by doctors are too high and that lower doses would have been effective. The panel also found that some doctors are unwilling to prescribe opioids at all rather than risk their patients developing an addiction.
How to Effectively Treat Chronic Pain
There are a number of conditions that cause a patient to suffer severe pain and where regular painkillers are ineffective at treating them. These patients require strong medication to relieve their pain but the problem remains one of whether they are being treated in the most effective way. There is no question that opioid drugs help with chronic pain, but do these do more harm than good?
The report by the panel, which included seven experts, said among other things that ‘the overriding question is whether we, as a nation, are currently approaching chronic pain in the best possible manner that maximizes effectiveness and minimizes harm’. The report also recommended the need for more research to help identify those patients that will benefit most from opioid drugs. As well as those who will benefit most, it will be necessary to identify the patients who are most likely to suffer side effects or develop an addiction.
Increase in Prescriptions
Recent figures released showed that the number of prescriptions for opioid drugs in the UK has risen dramatically in the past five years; the biggest rise has been in Scotland, where there are already problems with drug addiction. In Scotland, the increase over the past five years is at sixty per cent compared with a 39 per cent rise in England. In addition, with many people becoming addicted to opioids, there is a real worry that the problem could get worse unless something is done soon. This research from the US shows that this is not only an issue for patients in the UK.
Can Opioid Addiction Lead to Dependence on Other Drugs?
One of the biggest concerns with opioid drug use is that those who take them could become dependent on them. While opioids are typically meant for short-term use, some people can quickly develop a dependence and will find that they have a strong compulsion or desire to take their pills. When taken off the prescription, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. When their doctor no longer prescribes the drug, these individuals may look for alternative substances, such as heroin, to satisfy their craving. This does not happen to all opioid users but medical professionals are concerned that it is happening to some individuals.
Spotting Signs of Withdrawal
If a loved one has been prescribed opioid drugs and is about to stop taking them, it is a good idea to look out for signs of withdrawal. If your loved one starts showing these signs then getting help as soon as possible is a good idea. You may be able to prevent him or her from looking for a substitute substance such as heroin. Withdrawal signs include watery eyes, sweating, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, yawning, feeling hot and cold, vomiting, aches and pains, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and tremors. If you do spot these signs then call Addiction Helper immediately. We have a team of expert counsellors and therapists who can help your loved one tackle their addiction before it gets out of hand.
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