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Study Determines Effects On Chronic Pain Of Discontinuing Opioid Treatment

Stopping long-term opioid treatment does not make chronic, non-cancer-related pain worse and, in some cases, makes it better, Washington State University (WSU) researchers have found.

“On average, pain did not become worse among patients in our study a year after discontinuing long-term opioid therapy,” said Sterling McPherson, PhD, associate professor and director for biostatistics and clinical trial design at the WSU Elson F. Floyd College of Medicine. “If anything, their pain improved slightly, particularly among patients with mild to moderate pain just after discontinuation. Clinicians might consider these findings when discussing the risks and benefits of long-term opioid therapy as compared to other, non-opioid treatments for chronic pain.”

The research marks a crucial first step toward understanding how ending long-term opioid therapy affects patients with different types of chronic pain and could help medical practitioners identify effective, alternative treatments to opioids.

“There are a variety of treatments available for the management of chronic pain other than opioids, and our hope is that this research will help promote conversations about these alternatives between doctors and their patients,” McPherson said.

McPherson plans to collect additional data and conduct qualitative interviews with patients over the next year to try and determine why some patients experience greater reductions in pain than others after discontinuing long-term opioid therapy.

McPherson’s study appears in the June edition of the journal Pain.

This article was adapted from information provided by WSU.