Critical issues on opioids in chronic non-cancer pain: an epidemiological study

Pain. 2006 Nov;125(1-2):172-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2006.06.009. Epub 2006 Jul 13.


The aim of the study was epidemiologically to evaluate the long-term effects of opioids on pain relief, quality of life and functional capacity in long-term/chronic non-cancer pain. The study was based on data from the 2000 Danish Health and Morbidity Survey. As part of a representative National random sample of 16,684 individuals (>16 years of age), 10,066 took part in an interview and completed a self-administered questionnaire. Cancer patients were excluded. The interview and the self-administered questionnaire included questions on chronic/long-lasting pain (>6 months), health-related quality of life (SF-36), use of the health care system, functional capabilities, satisfaction with medical pain treatment and regular or continuous use of medications. Participants reporting pain were divided into opioid and non-opioid users. The analyses were adjusted for age, gender, concomitant use of anxiolytics and antidepressants and pain intensity. Pain relief, quality of life and functional capacity among opioid users were compared with non-opioid users. Opioid usage was significantly associated with reporting of moderate/severe or very severe pain, poor self-rated health, not being engaged in employment, higher use of the health care system, and a negative influence on quality of life as registered in all items in SF-36. Because of the cross-sectional nature causative relationships cannot be ascertained. However, it is remarkable that opioid treatment of long-term/chronic non-cancer pain does not seem to fulfil any of the key outcome opioid treatment goals: pain relief, improved quality of life and improved functional capacity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain Measurement / drug effects*
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*
  • Random Allocation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Narcotics