More than 30 percent of Americans have some form of chronic pain. Yet, the over-reliance on the millions of opioid pain reliever prescriptions dispensed yearly have resulted in a national epidemic of overdose deaths and addiction. A review article published today in The New England Journal of Medicine by NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow and Dr. A. Thomas McLellan, co-founder and Chair of the Board of the Treatment Research Institute, summarizes recent research to address common misconceptions regarding the abuse-related risks of opioid analgesics and highlights strategies to minimize those risks.
The review focuses on the therapeutic and abuse-producing effects of opioids, why they can be diverted and abused, and the importance of understanding the differences between tolerance, dependence and addiction. The authors discuss common strategies that can help lessen the risks of opioid abuse, including effective dosing and regular monitoring and assessment. Additionally, the authors recommend increasing medical school training for pain management and addiction, particularly for primary care practitioners who prescribe more than 70 percent of opioid pain relievers.