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Pain Research and Management
Volume 15 (2010), Issue 4, Pages 213-217
Original Article

The Long-Term Safety and Efficacy of Opioids: A Survey of 84 Selected Patients with Intractable Chronic Noncancer Pain

C Peter N Watson,1 Judy Watt-Watson,2 and Mary Chipman3

1Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2Lawrence S Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
3Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: The use of opioids for chronic noncancer pain (CNCP) remains controversial. Despite a number of randomized controlled trials showing efficacy and safety in the short term, long-term data are limited.

OBJECTIVE: To survey a selected cohort of patients with intractable CNCP with regard to long-term efficacy and safety of opioids.

METHODS: The present study reports long-term results from a survey of 84 patients with CNCP. The majority of patients had neuropathic pain, were treated with opioids and were followed every three months for a median of 8.4 years. Outcomes examined were pain severity, adverse effects, pain relief, satisfaction, mood, problematic opioid use, tolerance, physical dependency, functional status, health-related quality of life, immune status, sexual function, morbidity and mortality. Measures included a numerical rating scale, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Brief Pain Inventory interference scale, Pain Disability Index and Short-Form Health Survey 12, version 2.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Both long- and short-acting opioids were reported to be effective, with few significant long-term adverse effects in many subjects in the present selected cohort. The majority of patients reported at least 50% or greater pain relief and a moderate improvement in disability. Functional status and health-related quality of life scores were not severely affected. Problematic opioid use, tolerance and serious adverse effects, including constipation, were not major issues. The authors emphasize that the results obtained in the present selected group may not be generalizable to all CNCP patients in whom opioids are being initiated.