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Minerva Anestesiologica 2019 August;85(8):899-908

DOI: 10.23736/S0375-9393.19.13321-4

Copyright © 2019 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Using opioid therapy for pain in clinically challenging situations: questions for clinicians

Joseph V. PERGOLIZZI 1, Jo A. LEQUANG 1 , Steven PASSIK 2, Flaminia COLUZZI 3

1 NEMA Research, Inc., Naples, FL, USA; 2 Department of Scientific Affairs, Education and Policy, Collegium Pharmaceutical, Canton, MA, USA; 3 Department Medical and Surgical Sciences and Biotechnologies, La Sapienza University, Polo Pontino, Latina, Italy



Healthcare professionals and organizations increasingly face the conundrum of treating patients with active substance use disorder, a history of personal or familial substance use disorder, or those at elevated risk for substance abuse. Such patients need compassionate care when facing painful conditions; in fact, denying them pain control makes it likely that they will seek out ways to self-medicate with illicit drugs. Yet it remains unclear how to safely and effectively treat patients in these challenging situations. The authors have formulated ten questions to address in order to provide adequate analgesia for such patients. These questions demand a highly individualized approach to analgesia. These ten questions involve understanding the painful condition (presumed trajectory, duration, type of pain), using validated metrics such as risk assessment tools, guidelines, protocols, and safeguards within the system, selection of the optimal analgesic product(s) or combination therapy, and never starting opioid therapy without clear treatment objectives and a definitive exit plan. It is tempting but inaccurate to label these individuals as “inappropriate patients,” rather they are high-risk individuals in very challenging clinical situations. The challenge is that both options - being in pain or being treated with opioids to control pain - expose the patient to a risk of rekindling an addiction. The question is how do we, as clinicians, adequately respond to these very perplexing clinical challenges?


KEY WORDS: Analgesics, opioid; Opioid-related disorders; Chronic pain; Substance-related disorders

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