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Survey of Opioid Use in Chronic Nonmalignant Pain Patients
  1. Robert N. Jamison, Ph.D.*,
  2. Karen O. Anderson, Ph.D.,
  3. Christine Peeters-Asdourian, M.D. and
  4. F. Michael Ferrante, M.D.*
  1. *From the Department of Anesthesia, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts and
  2. Department of Anesthesiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts
  1. Reprint requests: Robert N. Jamison, Ph.D., Department of Anesthesia, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115.


Background and Objectives Opioids have been accepted as appropriate treatment for acute and cancer pain, but remain controversial for use with chronic nonmalignant pain. Clinicians are concerned about efficacy, tolerance, addiction, and unwanted side effects.

Methods The aim of this study was to survey chronic pain patients who were taking opioids for their pain, to determine the incidence of these adverse conditions. Two hundred seventeen patients who were being treated for their pain at two different pain centers completed a medication questionnaire. The most common diagnosis was low back pain. One hundred twelve patients reported taking oral opioids for their pain.

Results Of the patients who reported taking opioids for their chronic pain, 83% felt that the opioids were moderately beneficial in relieving their pain; 25% felt that the opioid had not lost its ability to relieve the pain over time; 35% reported that they did not need to increase their medication; 36% expressed no fear of addiction or dependence; and 56% reported having no unwanted side effects.

Conclusions The results suggest that chronic nonmalignant pain patients taking opioids for their pain reported some tolerance, fear of addiction, and side effects when taking opioids. However, despite these concerns, some of these patients felt that opioid therapy was very beneficial. Further investigations are needed to determine which patient characteristics predict benefit from opioid therapy for nonmalignant pain.

  • opioids
  • chronic pain
  • tolerance
  • dependence
  • adverse effects
  • nonmalignant

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