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Papers of the Week

2019 Aug

Minerva Anestesiol



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


Pergolizzi JV, Lequang JA, Passik S, Coluzzi F
Minerva Anestesiol. 2019 Aug; 85(8):899-908.
PMID: 30871302.


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?