Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, and it is a chronic condition. Integrated Pain Consultants often treats arthritis patients, many of which are interested in medication management—including opioids. The US is in the midst of an opioid epidemic as patients are being prescribed effective yet addictive medications that should only be used for short-term pain management.
A recent article in Arthritis & Rheumatology revealed that increasingly, prescription opioids are being used for long-term pain management in older patients suffering from osteoarthritis. The researchers warn, “Long-term use of prescription opioids for treatment of chronic pain carries the risk of dependence and other serious harms.”
Since osteoarthritis is most common in the hip or knee, there is little opportunity to avoid using the affected area. Almost 30 million American adults are diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and that number will continue to increase as Baby Boomers continue to age. Given the high rate of opioid prescriptions for OA, it’s important to consider the results.
Dr. Rishi Desai analyzed data from Medicare’s 2010-14 documents. This included 358,121 patients averaging 74 years old. One in six of these patients was prescribed opioids and used them for at least 90 days. Most used them an average of seven months. About 20 percent of these patients took the equivalent of 50 morphine milligrams per day, an amount that’s ranked as “potentially imparting a high risk of opioid-related harms.”
The state with the highest number of opioid-users for osteoarthritis was Alabama. However, it was prevalent in every state. OA patients might accept an opioid prescription because they are unaware of the dangers and addictive qualities, or simply because they think there are no other options. Severe osteoarthritis pain can be debilitating, and it makes sense that patients want to regain their normal lives.
Alternative treatments are available. There are a number of options to help with osteoarthritis pain. For more information, call Integrated Pain Consultants at 480-626-2552 to schedule your consultation.