Geriatrics society now recommends opioids for pain

By Tom Nordlie • Published: August 27th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Growing old ain’t for sissies, as the saying goes.

That’s certainly true when it comes to pain.

Senior citizens often suffer chronic pain from arthritis, degenerative spine conditions or cancer.

And if that pain isn’t minimized, it can cause terrible discomfort, leading to sleep disruption, anxiety and depression.

Since 1998, The American Geriatrics Society has recommended that seniors try to manage chronic pain with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.

Those products help, but they may not be as effective as prescription medications derived from opium.

However, opioid painkillers can cause physical addiction. Plus, they carry the stigma of being chemically related to street drugs such as heroin.

With all those factors in mind, The American Geriatrics Society convened a panel to take another look at its pain-management guidelines.

The panel included numerous experts familiar with the needs of older patients.

In May, the society announced new guidelines that put greater emphasis on the use of opioid drugs.

The reason?

Patient safety.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can have serious side effects, including increased cardiovascular risk and gastrointestinal toxicity.

So the panel recommended these medications be used rarely, with extreme caution, in selected patients.

A full explanation of the new guidelines will be published this fall in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

So, if someone you care about is grappling with constant pain, take heart.

There’s a new outlook in the medical field, and it could bring greater relief.