Pain that lasts more than a few months is chronic pain. Some types can’t be cured. But treatment can help you find relief. The right choice for you depends on:
▪ How long the pain has lasted.
▪ How bad it is.
▪ What’s causing it.
▪ Where you hurt.
Opioids are powerful and very effective for severe pain. They include Fentanyl, Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Methadone, Oxycodone (OxyContin). Opioid drugs can cause addiction, also known as opioid use disorder (OUD). About 8 percent to 12 percent of patients who take prescription opioids for chronic pain (a longer course of treatment than that for acute pain) develop OUD.
Symptoms of opioid use include drowsiness, constipation, euphoria, nausea, vomiting and slowed breathing. A person using opioids over time can develop tolerance, physical dependence and opioid use disorder, requiring higher and more frequent doses, with the risk of overdose and death.
The risk of respiratory depression (slowing) or respiratory arrest (when breathing stops completely) is higher in people who:
- Are taking an opioid drug for the first time.
- Are taking other medications that interact with the opioid.
- Have a disease or condition that affects their ability to breathe.
Although federal funding to address the opioid crisis has increased in recent years, opioid overdose mortality has increased as well. Deaths from opioid-involved overdoses were among the leading causes of death. Opioid prescribing increased as a result of aggressive promotion efforts by pharmaceutical companies and reimbursement incentives in the health care system. Some promotional materials also understated the addictive potential of prescription opioids.
Medications for OUD that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Another drug, naloxone, can reverse opioid overdoses but does not treat the underlying OUD. However, treatment for OUD is underused because of affordability, lack of access, and stigma associated with OUD.
More recently, demand for heroin and fentanyl and related substances increased because of lower prices for those drugs and reduced availability of prescription opioids.