Opioids and Chronic Pain: Where Is the Balance?
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- Davis, M.P. & Mehta, Z. Curr Oncol Rep (2016) 18: 71. doi:10.1007/s11912-016-0558-1
Chronic opioid therapy (defined as greater than 3 months on opioids) is a common practice for those with non-cancer pain, cancer survivors with treatment-related pain, and individuals with cancer undergoing disease-modifying therapy with a survival that can be for a year or more. Recent studies have found unique long-term toxicities with opioids which reduce the utility of opioid therapy in chronic pain. The risk of addiction, depression, central hypogonadism, sleep-disordered breathing, impaired wound healing, infections, cognitive impairment, falls, non-vertebral fractures, and mortality are increased in populations on long-term opioids. Factors associated with these risks are related to dose, duration of opioid therapy, type of opioid, and formula (long-acting, short-acting). This state-of-the-art review discusses the risks and benefits of chronic opioid therapy and strategies to increase utility and diminish risks to opioid therapy.