The Doctor’s Dilemma: Opiate Analgesics and Chronic Pain

Opiates are utilized routinely and effectively as a short-term analgesic treatment for a variety of acute pain conditions such as occur following trauma, and for patients with painful terminal diseases such as cancer. Because opiate analgesics are highly addictive substances, their use in the treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain remains controversial.

Opiates have been used for centuries and remain to this day the most potent and reliable analgesic agents.

Beyond potent analgesia, opiates reduce anxiety and produce mild sedation and a palpable sense of well-being, often to the point of euphoria. These are an unmitigated benefit for patients who would otherwise have to endure the pain and suffering of acute or terminal medical conditions.

The problem is that the most powerful opiate analgesics are also the most liable to cause abuse and addiction.

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