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Opioids May Not Help Deliver Pain Relief Long Term

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One hundred million Americans live with chronic pain, and the benefits of the most common treatment—opioid painkillers—may not outweigh the risks, according to a new report convened by the National Institues of Health. The studies found that there’s a lack of evidence on how effective long-term use of opioids is in improving chronic pain, and that it can actually cause serious harm, like overdose, death, and possibly fractures and cardiovascular problems.

What’s more, there’s no solid guidelines on when to know pain is bad enough to prescribe powerful painkillers: There’s a lack of evidence that physicians actually know how best to treat chronic pain in adults, including when opioids are the appropriate treatment, and if so, at what dose and for how long, said Christopher Callahan, M.D., founding director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research. 

Drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin are used to treat a wide range of chronic pain problems, including low back pain and fibromyalgia, but they are also highly addictive and can cause side effects like sexual dysfunction. (What’s it like living in constant discomfort? One woman shares in Living with Fibromyalgia for 15 Years.)

So until the governing bodies definitively decide what the most effective course of treatment is, there are still a whole lot of Americans living with chronic pain. If you’re one of them and aren’t crazy about the risk of opioids, check out this Expert Advice on Relieving Lower Back Pain and 5 Weird Remedies for Neck and Back Pain. Also look at the root of your problem—it’s not just from sitting all day: Are Your Workouts Causing Pain? How to Find Out, plus 6 Imbalances That Cause Pain—and How to Fix Them.

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