In today’s addiction-riddled, drug obsessed world, employee health management regimes continue to place opioid use for chronic, non-cancer pain (CNCP) under the microscope for efficacy. Does it really work? And if so, do benefits outweigh risks? Or are the use of these drugs merely a shot in the dark, prescribed by physicians with a lack of evidence-based alternatives?
Opioid misuse on the one hand, undertreated pain on the other
CNCP is common, affecting 10-20% of adults, particularly the elderly. There exists to-date no singly effective drug or drug group that works well for its alleviation. NSAIDs are viewed as dangerous and often avoided, other licensed medicines are prohibitively expensive, and non-drug protocols are few, with scant evidence of efficacy, leaving opioid use to soar.
Does that mean they work?
While there will be some who get demonstrable pain relief with opioids without experiencing long-term harm or side effects, evidence is weak - opioids should not be the drug of choice for chronic pain. Consideration must be given to treating pain while avoiding risks - without taking sides in the national debate. A decision to exclude them a priori would appear based on ignorance/fear - not science.
A sensible approach
The situation here is no different than in others where a small number of individuals benefit immensely but most do not – a chance for pain relief should be given - albeit at sensible dosages, and alongside non-drug options, until efficacy is verified. High-doses and long-term use must be avoided to circumvent adverse risks, allowing those who can benefit to do so.
Current employee health management tactics seem risky? Minnesota Comp Advisor can help. Contact us today.