Opioid related deaths have been a hot topic recently as well as in the past. Their safety and role in the treatment of chronic diseases, such as pain, has come into question. However, studies over the past 20 years have repeatedly shown opioids to be safe when they are used correctly. Multiple studies in the United States and around the world have shown opioids to be a safe and effective treatment option.
Often the adverse events related to opioid medications involve overuse and are due to the combining of opioids with other “sedative” agents, such as alcohol, and/or benzodiazepines.
The key point is: yes, opioids are safe when USED CORRECTLY, but they can be deadly if ABUSED. Please note that like any medication, significant side effects, such as death, have been reported in individuals who take their medications correctly. The KEY to being SAFE is understanding the medications you take. Hence the importance of this course: the information here is essential knowledge for those taking opioid or similar medications. It is also important that you speak to your doctor if you have any questions or safety concerns.
It is impossible to tell which patients need low doses and which need high doses. We recommend that all patients start on low doses, especially those who are new to these medications. Over time, if needed, your doctor can titrate the dose of the opioid medication to provide more effective pain relief, while minimizing adverse side effects. It is important to understand that the lowest dose needed for effective pain control is recommended. Higher doses do not translate into better pain relief in many cases. Rather than adding high doses of opioids to your treatment plan, talk to your doctor about the addition of other treatment options (which are discussed later in this course).