Effects of long-term opioid use for back pain

An August 2022 study (1) wanted to assess what happens to people on long-term opioid therapy for back-specific disability and health-related quality of life in patients with chronic low back pain. In this study there were 96 long-term opioid users and 204 long-term opioid nonusers.

In surveying the people of this study, the researchers found:

  • Long-term opioid use (more than 12 months) was a predictor of worse back-specific disability, physical function, fatigue, participation in social role, and pain interference outcomes.
  • Intermediate-term opioid use was a predictor of worse back-specific disability, physical function, fatigue, and sleep disturbance outcomes.
  • Short-term opioid use was a predictor of worse back-specific disability and physical function outcomes.

The researchers concluded: “The findings of this study are largely consistent with existing literature regarding the outcomes of long-term opioid therapy. Taken in conjunction with the well-established risks of opioid medications, these findings draw into question the utility of long-term opioid therapy for chronic low back pain.”

1 Schultz MJ, Licciardone JC. The effect of long-term opioid use on back-specific disability and health-related quality of life in patients with chronic low back pain. Journal of Osteopathic Medicine. 2022 Aug 11.

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