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Opioids for chronic pain: solutions depend on understanding problems

Two CU studies point to possible help for patients, providers dealing with narcotics for long-term pain


​Two recent studies led by University of Colorado School of Medicine physician researchers have defined key problems related to opioid pain medications for patients with chronic pain. They represent early, important steps toward helping patients get off long-term opioids and hospital physicians make the right decisions about these difficult cases.
 
Prescription opioid pain medications have become a massive problem in this country. While they can offer unparalleled short-term pain relief, an estimated 1.9 million Americans were addicted to them in 2013 alone. From 1999 to 2014, 165,000 people died of opioid medication-related overdoses. Opioid prescribing has increased more than six-fold in the past decade in the United States, and 9 million Americans report long-term medical use of opioids despite a lack of evidence that they offer any long-term help at all.