Painkillers not as addictive as feared

Painkillers not as addictive as feared

NEW YORK - Reuters
Painkillers not as addictive as feared

Concerns about being addicted to painkillers may be ‘overblown.’

Fewer than five percent of patients prescribed narcotics to treat chronic pain become addicted to the drugs, according to a new analysis of past research.

The finding suggests that concerns about the risk of becoming addicted to prescription painkillers might be “overblown,” said addiction specialist Dr. Michael Fleming at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“If you’re a person that doesn’t have a history of addiction and doesn’t have any major psychiatric problems, narcotics are relatively safe as long as your doctor doesn’t give you too much and uses the right medication,” Fleming, who was not involved in the new study, told Reuters Health.

Some recent research has concluded the same thing, but another expert remained skeptical about the new report because many of the studies it included were not considered the best quality research, and they varied widely in their results.

“I think the jury’s still out” on how worrisome prescription opioid addiction is, said Joseph Boscarino of the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Pennsylvania, who studies pain and addiction.

Opioid painkillers, which include oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine, have only recently become available for patients with chronic pain, said Boscarino, who was not part of the new study. In the past, the drugs were almost exclusively reserved for cancer patients and people with short-term pain - on the theory that in the first category of patients the need outweighed the risk, and in the second group, short term use was unlikely to lead to long-term addiction. “They opened up. Since then there’s been a wave of addiction,”he said.