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Fear of Addiction Keeps Cancer Patients from Receiving Pain Relief


Posted on Aug 31, 2014

Researchers claim that the fear of opioid addiction may keep patients diagnosed with advanced cancer from getting the proper dosage of pain medication.

The assistant regional director at Kaiser Permanente told Reuter Health that he does not believe concerns about overdose and addiction should prevent terminally ill patients from obtaining relief.

A recent report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology estimated that pain under treatment affects about half of cancer patients.

Opioids are a type of narcotic; they work in the spinal cord and brain to reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain. Commonly prescribed painkillers are hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet. According to the International Narcotics Control Board, hydrocodone is the most prescribed medication in the U.S.

Opioid overuse and abuse are widespread phenomenon that receives a tremendous amount of media attention.

A pain specialist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago claims to be worried by the underuse of opioids. Part of the issue is that it is sometimes hard for patients to convey to doctors how severe the pain is.

Pain although real to the person experiencing it is unlike infections that can be measured with blood samples, there is no objective marker.

Doctors often ask patients to rate their pain on a scale from 0 to 10. However, according to experts, the severity should be described in more detail than that.

Certain populations are at a particularly high risk of inadequate pain treatment. Research shows that patients in minority care settings are 3 times more likely to receive under treatment than those in non-minority settings. 60% of African American and 74% of Hispanic outpatients with cancer-related pain reported inadequate prescriptions.

When time is precious, balancing relief and alertness is essential.  

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Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer