With an increased awareness of the risks associated with taking opioid drugs longer than three months for chronic pain, physicians are encouraged to try alternative treatments before prescribing drugs such as morphine, oxycodone or hydrocodone.
According to the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, developing a tolerance to opioid drugs can result in the need to increase dosage to manage pain resulting in a greater risk for drug abuse, addiction, overdose and heart attack.
Chronic pain affects nearly 20 per cent of Canadians, not including pain related to cancer, and seniors can be more likely to suffer chronic pain from conditions common in older age such as arthritis or back pain.
Many doctors turned to opioid drugs when the dangers of NSAID drugs including aspirin and ibuprofen were discovered. The elderly can be particularly vulnerable to side effects of NSAIDs that include a greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, bleeding ulcers and kidney damage. But with a dramatic rise in the incidence of opioid drug overdoses and addiction in Canada and the United States, health practitioners are looking at antidepressants, exercise, acupuncture or mindfulness training to help manage chronic pain.
For more information about safe and effective pain management, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website by following this link.