Although controversial, opioid analgesics have been prescribed for patients with chronic facial pain. Based primarily on survey data and a few well-controlled clinical trials, long-term opioid treatment provides adequate pain reduction in 41% to 100% of patients with chronic nonmalignant pain. However, only 25% of chronic facial pain patients reported adequate pain relief with chronic opioid treatment. Work, home, and school function are generally reestablished or maintained during chronic opioid treatment, but 25% to 38% of patients remain dysfunctional, and one study indicated that 20% of patients became dysfunctional during treatment. Chronic opioid treatment is associated with many transient side effects; constipation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, itching, and fatigue have been reported in 5% to 42% of patients taking opioids over 1 year. Although survey studies suggest that the risks of addiction are low in typical patients, drug abuse rates up to 17.3% and prescription abuse rates up to 27.6% were reported within groups of chronic opioid users. Chronic opioid use induces analgesic tolerance and physical dependence, which may result in a serious abstinence syndrome in users and children born to users. Chronic opioid use also may induce harmful immune system changes, diminish cognitive and motor function, and produce nociceptive hyperexcitability. This article shows that the use of long-term aphids for chronic facial pain is not justified based on the available data. Despite these perceived problems, there is anecdotal evidence that chronic facial pain patients will respond positively to opioid analgesics. In our experience, the pain assessment scale and a modification of the World Health Organization's three-step analgesic ladder, which prescribes nonopioid analgesics, can be the starting point for the successful management of chronic facial pain.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Oral Surgery