What is Opioid Therapy?
It is estimated that about 100 million individuals in the U.S. have been diagnosed with chronic pain. Patients who experience chronic pain are faced with ongoing, persistent pain that lasts more than three months. Depending on the type of illness, chronic pain can be severe enough to decrease mobility, cause disability, affect food intake, and diminish quality of life. Cases have shown that people who have dealt with disease or injury may recover, but many times are left with continuous symptoms of chronic pain.
There are numerous treatment options for pain, but many are not consistently effective for people with chronic pain due to the longevity of their symptoms. Physicians often choose to prescribe opioids as a treatment option. Opioids are medications that are very similar to narcotics, but are not derived from actual opium. Reports have found opioid therapy to be very effective for managing chronic pain in patients.
Opioid therapy can be a complex type of treatment, as physicians must find a balance between relieving pain and avoiding addiction or opioid toxicity for the patient. Opioid therapy is one of the most potent analgesics and is frequently used to treat cancer patients, as well as patients with chronic non-malignant pain.
Types of Opioid Therapy
The goal of opioid therapy is to use the minimum amount of medication to provide pain management and improved functionality to the patient. Opioid therapy is a long-term treatment plan created by physicians to improve the quality of life for their patients. A trial period is often the first step of the process, allowing physicians to monitor the effects of the opioid therapy and take note of any side effects. It is beneficial for one physician to be in charge of the therapy regimen so that opioid doses can be easily tracked and modified as needed. If patients fail to experience proper analgesia during the trial period, the physician will work to improve the balance of medication and may need to increase the dosage.
Opioid therapy is usually administered to patients in liquid or pill form. The dosage prescribed will depend on the patient’s medical history, the severity of their pain, and the results produced from their therapy trial period. Opioid injections are sometimes prescribed to cancer patients, but are not recommended for treating non-malignant pain.
Controlled-release opioids offer constant analgesia to patients by allowing each dose of medication to become active before the previous dose wears off. This type of opioid is frequently prescribed to patients suffering from invasive pain due to cancer or to older patients who may not always remember to take their medication on time.
Ongoing assessment will be part of any opioid therapy. Physicians will monitor pain levels, a patient’s ability to function physically and mentally, and any side effects that have developed. Once a patient has found an opioid therapy that works for them, the physician will often prescribe a gradual taper of the dosage as they reach their recovery goals. Any change in opioid doses will be scheduled in minimal amounts over time to avoid the possibility of the patient developing withdrawal symptoms.
Risk for addiction to opioids is minimal for most patients. If a patient’s medical history reflects substance abuse, a physician will assess the severity of risk, with the monitored outcomes noted during the trial therapy period.
Conditions Related with Opioid Therapy
Opioid therapy is frequently used to treat analgesia in patients who suffer from cancer, degenerative diseases, severe injuries, or chronic diseases like arthritis. Reports have shown a high success rate using opioid therapy, resulting in physicians prescribing opioids for non-malignant chronic pain as well. Opioid therapy is an alternative option for patients who suffer from chronic pain and have found no relief from non-pharmalogical treatments. Opioids are also an effective treatment option for terminally ill patients, when risk of addiction is not as relevant. Stable doses of opioids can help improve pain, inflammation, and the ability to accomplish daily activities.
Chronic pain is a growing medical condition in the United States that has a long-lasting impact on those who have been diagnosed. An opioid therapy regimen is an effective way to treat chronic pain and enhance a patient’s daily life. Opioid treatment regimens are carefully assessed by a physician to ensure the success of the treatment and to maintain minimal risk of addiction or side effects.