The Risks of Opioid Use for Chronic Pain Management




Dr. Erol Onel serves Heron Therapeutics in La Jolla, California, as company vice president. In this position Dr. Erol Onel leads a team working toward the FDA approval for a non-opioid pain management drug.

There are a number of risks when it comes to using opioids as a medical solution for chronic pain management. The most significant risk involves patients becoming completely dependent on an opioid to manage pain levels, both physically and psychologically. This dependency has the potential to quickly evolve into drug addiction. Studies have indicated that individuals with past histories of substance abuse are at a higher risk for opioid dependency and addiction, pressing the need for non-opioid alternatives.

Controlled studies have found the rate of dependency and substance abuse among opioid-using populations to be as high as 12 percent. Considering more than 38 percent of Americans take prescribed painkillers on a regular basis, more than the number of Americans using tobacco products, this rate of addiction could translate to 14 million individuals. Additional risks associated with prolonged opioid use for pain management include difficulty focusing, hormonal changes, and opioid induced hyperalgesia.

Pain Medication – Opioids and NSAIDs

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A urologist active in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Erol Onel serves as vice president of Heron Therapeutics in La Jolla, California. In his leadership capacity, Dr. Erol Onel contributes to the drug-approval process for non-opioid pain relievers.

Opioids are a class of prescription drugs known for their potency in relieving pain. Though highly effective, opioids can cause dangerous side effects, and can even result in dependency in some people. Opioids effect the nervous system by interrupting the brain signals responsible for creating painful sensations. On the market, pharmaceutical companies package opioids under a variety of brand names, including Percocet, Fentora, and Oxycontin.

Non-opioid pain relief medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also address pain. NSAIDs work by blocking certain enzymes that encourage swelling and associated pain. They’re offered over the counter under names like Advil and Aleve.