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October 2, 2013

Weighing In on Opioids for Chronic Pain: The Barriers to Change

Author Affiliations
  • 1Boston Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2013;310(13):1351-1352. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.278587

It is estimated that approximately 100 million US residents have chronic pain, costing more than $600 billion per year in direct medical treatment and lost productivity costs.1 In the 1980s, several reports began to support use of opioid therapy for chronic noncancer pain.2 Over the ensuing decades, a 4-fold increase in opioid prescribing has occurred, but has been associated with a 4-fold increase in unintentional opioid overdose deaths and a 6-fold increase in substance abuse treatment admissions for prescription opioid addiction.3 With such severe risks associated with opioid use, decreasing the need for chronic opioid therapy is a worthy clinical goal.