Experts Warn Why We Need to Stop Treating Back Pain With Opioids

A new study, published July in the Lancet medical journal, found opioids do not relieve “acute” low back or neck pain (lasting up to 12 weeks) and can result in worse pain.

Prescribing opioids for low back and neck pain can also cause harms ranging from common side effects – such as nausea, constipation and dizziness – to misuse, dependency, poisoning, and death.

After six weeks of treatment, taking opioids did not result in better pain relief compared to the placebo.

Nor were there benefits to other outcomes such as physical function, quality of life, recovery time, or work absenteeism.

More people in the group treated with opioids experienced nausea, constipation, and dizziness than in the placebo group.

Results at one year highlight the potential long-term harm of opioids even with short-term use. Compared to the placebo group, people in the opioid group experienced slightly worse pain, and reported a higher risk of opioid misuse (problems with their thinking, mood or behavior, or using opioids differently from how the medicines were prescribed).