Opioids in chronic pain management: is there a significant risk of addiction?

Curr Rev Pain. 2000;4(2):112-21. doi: 10.1007/s11916-000-0044-0.


In the last decade there has been significant controversy about the appropriateness, efficacy, safety, and wisdom of treating chronic pain patients (CPPs) with opioids. Arguments against their use have included concerns about tolerance, dependence, addiction, persistent side effects, and interference with physical or psychosocial functioning. However, considerable experience and research with long-term cancer pain treatment suggests that in appropriately selected patients, opioids have a low morbidity, and a low addiction potential, and in addition to the primary analgesic action, can facilitate reduction in suffering, enhance functional activity level, and improve quality of life without significant risk of addictive behaviors. Some patients, however, are at risk. Risk factors for addiction are discussed in this article.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Automobile Driving
  • Chronic Disease
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Narcotics / adverse effects
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Public Policy
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology*
  • Time
  • Workplace


  • Narcotics