Dr. Corey Hayes, a pharmacist and some of his colleagues have investigated the effects of high dose opioids and their possible effects on pain patients. Surprisingly, they found that contrary to the common fact, high dose opioids are not helpful for pain relief.
In fact, they increase the chances of undesirable and unwanted side effects in the long run. Chronic pain patients are increasing day by day and the common medicines are failing to work.
The researchers from the Central Arkansas and Minneapolis VA health care systems and some of its collaborative universities investigated the data obtained from 50,000 VA patients who were taking opioids for pain relief. They found that high dose opioids didn’t show any improvement in pain in comparison with people who were taking the standard dose.
The complete findings of this study are published in the January 2020 issue of the “Pain” journal. Another study by this same team was published in the “Addiction” journal which reported higher side effects of taking a high dose of opioids for pain relief.
The first author of the study, Dr. Corey Hayes says in Medical Sciences report (University of Arkansas);
“What we found … was that the pain relief the provider and the patient are going for really isn’t there when they increase their doses. You don’t see the benefit, but you do see the risk. Our overall message is when you’re thinking about increasing the dose, you need to realize the risk it brings, too.”
Opioids are common pain relievers. They help by reducing the intensity of the pain and work on emotional triggers of the brain, affecting the pain stimuli. The only way opioids can help for pain is when a person uses them correctly. Don’t forget that these opioids have a high tendency to misuse and addiction.
People sometimes increase their dose of opioids on their own because they think a standard dose is not doing any help. But little they know is that a high dose creates an opioid tolerance which means the standard dose would never work on them. Every time they want to relieve pain, they would require a high dose of opioids and that’s not all.
High dose usage comes with numerous risks and problems. The patient is much likely to suffer from side effects that include dizziness, GI problems, constipation, increased pain sensitivity, high risk of substance abuse, etc.
Despite making it simple, people don’t really understand the problems associated with opioids abuse. There are no clear indications of how a high dose relieves the pain better. The only way to prevent substance abuse is by governing the availability of these opioids.
To understand if opioid prescriptions cause better pain management or not, the study participants looked into the medical data of VA patients who were prescribed opioids to relieve chronic pain between the years 2008 and 2015. These patients were suffering from back pain, beck pain, headache, neuropathic pain, migraine and age-related disease such as arthritis.
In this study period, approximately 21,000 patients increased their opioid dose which was nearly 20% higher than the standard daily dosage. The medical records of these patients were compared to 32,000 patients who didn’t increase their daily dose and used the same standard dose every day in these years.
Through the pain scale system, patients with increased dosage reported high average pain than the standard dose taker group. These results showed that increasing the opioid didn’t help these pain patients. It further highlights that the VA is taking big steps to reduce opioid abuse nationwide.