Long-term opioid use… are you at risk?

opioid addiction, chronic pain, arthritis digest, opioids

Almost one-third of people with rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia may be at risk of long-term opioid painkiller use, researchers warn in the British Medical Journal.

People with rheumatic and musculoskeletal conditions are often prescribed opioids to manage their pain.

Around 800,000 adults whose medical records were analysed by the researchers and had a variety of health conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. The highest proportion of long-term opioid users were people with fibromyalgia (27%) followed by patients with rheumatoid arthritis (26%) and those with axial spondyloarthritis (24%).

“The findings warrant vigilance in practice of opioid prescribing for [rheumatoid and musculoskeletal conditions] since long term opioid therapy is associated with poor outcomes (eg, opioid dependence and opioid-related adverse events),” the team highlights.

Healthcare professionals should consider non-drug treatments for pain relief to minimise the risks of “avoidable harms” in this group of patients.

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