Potential Challenges to End Long-Term Opioid Use

Research finds patients are fearful of decreasing or stopping medications.

In a recent study, researchers found different challenges and barriers in decreasing opioid use for the treatment of chronic pain.

The growing opioid epidemic and resulting deaths from opioid abuse and misuse has increased focus on limiting opioid use. The CDC created new guidelines and took a conservative approach to prescribing these drugs, according to a study published in Pain Medicine.

Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 24 patients who were using opioids long term for the study. Patients on long-term opioid treatments said that stopping treatment can be unpleasant, complicated, and can cause anxiety.

The patients also said that decreasing or stopping treatment lead to them becoming fearful of increased pain and confusing medication changes; however, the patients reported an increased quality of life afterwards.

Support from family and healthcare providers were especially important to these patients, but this level of support could prove to be difficult in some outpatient primary care facilities.

"While the process can be very challenging, there may be a silver lining here," concluded researcher Joseph Frank, MD, MPH. "We heard powerful stories of patients reclaiming their lives. It will be important to ensure that patients' voices are heard in the national conversation about these medications."