Pain and opioid dependence: Is it a matter of concern

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Indian Journal of Palliative Care, 2011, 17 (4 SUPPL.)
Issue Date:
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Opioids are extremely effective in managing cancer pain, and now are utilized for longer periods of time in cancer patients as the treatment for malignancies has become more successful. [1] The goals in cancer pain treatment includes maintaining function in patients with cancer pain (especially in earlier stage disease), and palliation in advanced disease. [1] The perception of the lay public and inexperienced clinicians that addiction is inevitable, often leads to an inappropriate fear to utilize opioids to appropriately manage pain; resulting in persistent under-treatment of cancer pain internationally. [2,3] There is much confusion about the phenomenon of physical dependence and how this can be differentiated from the maladaptive behaviors that constitute a diagnosis of substance abuse. The burden of cancer and associated cancer pain is projected to continue to rise, and is often at an advanced stage at diagnosis in less developed countries. [4] To be able to provide quality care for this patient population availability of opioids and skilled clinicians in pain management is paramount. In the majority of cases, the main concern is to abate concerns about risks of opioid addiction; to allow adequate pain relief. To understand the infrequent phenomenon of substance abuse in the setting of cancer pain management clear definitions are needed, and review of the epidemiology of occurrence in cancer populations is needed. It is also important to clearly separate the issues of substance abuse at the patient level and diversion of prescribed opioids. There are principles of managing cancer pain in the rare clinical scenario when the risk of substance abuse is high, which can still allow safe management of cancer pain with opioids.
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