The use of opioids treatments in fibromyalgia is known to have far more risk of serious side effects than the benefits of pain relief
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that causes chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue.
People suffering from fibromyalgia have tender points which hurt when pressure is put on them.
There is no known cause of fibromyalgia but there are various factors that are believed to contribute to the onset of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia affects muscles and soft tissue. Its symptoms include chronic muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points or trigger points.
These symptoms can be relieved through medications, lifestyle change, and stress management.
One of the most common or key symptoms of fibromyalgia is pain and many go to extreme measures to relieve these pains.
One such common treatment that people suffering from fibromyalgia tend to undertake is the use of opioids, a pain reliever or painkiller.
However, the medical use of opioids has led to a series of concerns about its benefits. There are several studies carried out which shows that opioid medication has more negatives than positives.
What are opioids?
Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects and are medically used to reduce pain.
It is known to reduce the intensity of pain signals that reach the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emoting that weakens the effects of a painful stimulus.
In 2014, a leading U.S. medical organization has also urged its members not prescribe opioid painkillers to patients suffering from fibromyalgia, low back pain or headaches, because the risk of serious side effects outweighs the benefits of pain relief.
According to a survey of over 2,400 women by the National Pain Report, although opioid pain medications are generally not prescribed for fibromyalgia, nearly 60 percent of women suffering from the condition are found to be taking opioids.
The dangers of using opioids
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently discouraged doctors from prescribing opiates in their new guidelines.
The guideline was a part of a federal response to the increasing rate of opiate addiction in the U.S. Since 1999, more than 165,000 people in the U.S. have died of causes related to painkiller use.
The CDC guidelines note that the deaths have paralleled an enormous increase in the sales of these drugs.
About 250 million painkiller prescriptions were written in 2013, enough, the agency noted,
According to a survey published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2011, 457 Canadian fibromyalgia patients who received opioids, nearly a third of those studied generally fared worse than patients who received no opioids as part of treatment.
A study published in the journal Pain Research and Treatment examined the effect of opioid treatments in patients suffering from fibromyalgia over a period of two years.
According to the study, although opioid users may initially have had more severe symptoms at the onset of the condition, there was no evidence that these agents improved status beyond standard care and may even have contributed to a less favorable outcome.
The study raises its concerns regarding the negative effects associated with chronic opioid use and the rational use of opioid treatments in fibromyalgia patients.
It was observed that one-third of the fibromyalgia patients followed longitudinally in a multidisciplinary pain clinic were maintained on opioid drug therapy and over time there was an improvement recorded for the total cohort for measures of pain, function, and mood, irrespective of opioid status.
However, opioid users scored consistently higher for all measures of symptom severity with significance noted for higher pain scores and more functional impairment.
The study reported that while opioids remain a treatment choice for the management of pain, patients using opioids failed to show any advantage in overall health status.
Although there are short-term benefits of opioid treatments, the long-term benefits seem very bleak.
A study on the long-term evaluation of opioid treatment in fibromyalgia was published in the National Institutes of Health.
The twelve-month observational study evaluated the effect of the opioid use on the outcomes in 1700 adult patients suffering from fibromyalgia.
The study revealed that although pain severity was reduced overtime for all patients, opioid users showed less improvement in pain-related interference with daily living, functioning, depression, and insomnia.
Therefore, the study concluded that overall findings show little support for the long-term use of opioid medications in patients with fibromyalgia given the poorer outcomes.
Types of opioids
There are different types of opioids that many people use. Some are as follows:
- codeine (only available in generic form)
- fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora)
- hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
- hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
- hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
- meperidine (Demerol)
- methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
How do Opioids Work?
Opioids attach to specific proteins called opioid receptors that are found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body.
When the opioid drugs connect to their receptors, they reduce the perception of pain or reduce the sending of pain messages to the brain and therefore reduce feelings of pain.
Opioid Side Effects
Opioids have serious side effects if not managed properly. It is important to understand the side effects that it causes. Some side effects include:
- Mental confusion
- Depress respiration
If opioids medications are not well managed it can lead to serious medical complications including overdose.
It is important to note that opioids can be very dangerous if you take it with alcohol and certain drugs such as some antidepressants, antihistamines, and sleeping pills.
Therefore, it is important to let your doctor know about any kind of medication that you are on before taking opioids medication.
Do not stop or take opioid medication on your own. It is vital that you consult your doctor first.
The use of opioids to treat fibromyalgia has been increasing year after year. It is, therefore, important to understand its risks and benefits before getting yourself onto the medication.