Risks of addiction, overdose frequently outweigh painkiller benefits: researcher

Minneapolis – The risks of prescription opioids outweigh the benefits of their treatment for some chronic pain, the American Academy of Neurology said in a position statement released Sept. 30.

The authors call prescription painkiller-related illnesses and deaths a “rapidly emerging public health epidemic” and provide recommendations for how doctors can safely and effectively prescribe opioids.

Opioids have shown to be effective for short-term pain relief, but no substantial evidence exists for long-term pain relief without users facing the risk of overdose, dependency or addiction, the statement warns. Half of patients taking painkillers for at least three months continued taking them five years later, AAN stated, citing studies on the issue. Since the late 1990s, more than 100,000 people have died in connection with use of prescription painkillers.

“There have been more deaths from prescription opioids in the most vulnerable young to middle-aged groups than from firearms and car accidents,” AAN fellow and University of Washington School of Public Health research professor Gary Franklin said in the statement. “Doctors, states, institutes and patients need to work together to stop this epidemic.”

The position statement was published in the journal Neurology.