An estimated 8% of Americans aged 18 years and older suffer from chronic pain so severe that it limits their day-to-day activities. Epidemiological studies estimate that the overall prevalence of chronic pain among American adults is between 18% and 34.5%.
For most of these people, opioids are the most common way to manage their chronic pain enough to engage in daily activities. However, opioids aren’t always effective, and they carry a significant risk of addiction and unwanted side effects. Aside from causing side effects such as nausea, mental fog and constipation, opioids are incredibly addictive, especially for people who take them long-term.
In addition, at high enough doses, opioids can slow down your heart rate and breathing, and even cause death. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that, since 1999, the opioid pandemic has claimed more than 932,000 lives due to overdose.
A recent study has now revealed that patients who seek to stop opioid use for chronic pain management also face the risk of adverse health outcomes. The study by University of British Columbia assistant professor Dr. Mary Clare Kennedy suggests that patients who stop prescribed opioid use face an increased risk of overdose.
Even though health experts in the United States and Canada have established guidelines to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions for chronic pain patients, we don’t know much about the impact of discontinuing opioid treatments. The research team led by Kennedy sought to determine the relationship between overdose risk and discontinued opioid use for chronic pain management.
To do so, the researchers reviewed the medical records of some 14,000 patients who had used opioids to manage chronic pain for at least 90 days. The researchers found that stopping opioid therapy for chronic pain increased the risk of overdose for people without opioid use disorder (OUD) as well as those with OUD.
The effect was more pronounced in those who had OUD, including patients who had received opioid agonist therapy and those who hadn’t received opioid agonist therapy. Additionally, patients who had not received opioid agonist therapy had a reduced risk of overdose when they tapered opioid therapy.
The study had some limitations, however. For instance, the researchers could not determine whether the drugs involved in the overdoses were sourced illicitly or via prescription. Furthermore, the study did not include overdose events that did not include prescribed opioids or lead to death.
Even so, the study authors concluded from their findings that physicians should avoid sudden discontinuation of opioid use for pain management and focus on tapering strategies for chronic pain patients.
These clinical challenges partly drive several companies such as CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) to develop new treatments that better address the needs of patients while reducing the side effects that come with medications.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/CNSP
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