Psychological support can reduce long-term opioid use among chronic pain patients

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Multidisciplinary programs designed to offer psychological support and manage post-surgical pain can successfully curb opioid use among patients at risk for developing chronic pain and becoming long-term opioid users, according to a study published in the Canadian Journal of Pain.

For the study, 343 post-surgical patients at risk for long-term opioid use were enrolled in a multidisciplinary pain program at Toronto General Hospital. While all patients displayed a reduction in pain and anxiety over the course of the two-year study, patients who received acceptance and commitment therapy displayed greater reductions in symptoms of depression and opioid use. The therapy program taught patients coping skills, promoted patient acceptance of the difficulties encountered when experiencing pain and encouraged patients to participate in meaningful life activities.

"If we lower how many opioids patients are taking, but leave them disabled and not able to live their lives, that is not helpful," said Aliza Weinrib, PhD, a clinical psychologist with Toronto General Hospital and one of the study's authors. "Patients can learn to respond to their pain in a different way, making it less overwhelming. They don't have to be so tied to their medications."

More articles on opioids: 
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3 care practices can help lower mortality among patients with opioid use disorder, study finds 
STAT projection: Opioid overdoses could kill more than 650k Americans in the next 10 years

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