Concerns about addiction and abuse may prevent patients from informing their oncologist about their level of pain.
Fears of opioid abuse and addiction might be keeping patients with advanced cancer from getting enough pain medicine, researchers say.
“At the end of life, we should feel comfortable providing whatever necessary to control pain,” said Joel Hyatt, assistant regional director at Kaiser Permanente. Concerns about overdose and addiction, he told Reuters Health, should not prevent terminally ill patients from obtaining relief.
Pain undertreatment is estimated to affect half of cancer patients, according to a recent report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Opioids, a type of narcotic, work in the spinal cord and brain to reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain. The opioids hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet) are commonly prescribed painkillers. Hydrocodone is the most prescribed medication in the U.S., according to the International Narcotics Control Board.
Opioid overuse and abuse are a widespread problem that gets lots of attention in the news media — and that may keep cancer patients and doctors from using them appropriately.
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