PerspectivePAIN RESEARCH

Time for nonaddictive relief of pain

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Science  10 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6329, pp. 1026-1027
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan0088

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Summary

Much has been written recently about the prevalence of chronic pain (1), the dramatic increase in opioid prescriptions in the United States over the past 15 years, the concomitant rise in opioid dependency and addiction, and the quadrupling of deaths from opioid abuse. Although indispensable for managing acute severe traumatic pain and pain in a palliative setting, most opioids are prescribed either by dentists or by primary practitioners for chronic nonmalignant pain, and marketed aggressively to consumers for the latter, despite no scientific evidence supporting such treatment beyond 12 weeks (1). On the contrary, chronic opioid use can itself lead to pain. Most abuse (perhaps 70%) involves access to opioids that are prescribed for others—a diversion problem.