Blog, Resource, & Helpline for those battling Percocet addiction

Use of Opioids for Chronic Pain May Actually Make Pain Worse

Use of Opioids for Chronic Pain May Actually Make Pain Worse

The use of oxycodone, a primary ingredient of the popular painkiller Percocet, increased 866 percent between 1997 and 2007 alone. Use of hydrocodone increased 280% during that time, and the use of methadone increased a whopping 1,293 percent during that time. Sadly, even now, as many as 90 percent of all patients receive opioids to treat pain in pain clinics.

Only recently, doctors and patients alike have begun questioning the use of these drugs among patients. Lawmakers and families have openly discussed and protested the use of these medications, and research reveals that these drugs actually have limited effectiveness and dangerous side effects. Now, a new condition is being discussed. Opioid-Induced hyperalgesia (OIH) occurs when long-term opioid use actually makes pain worse.

How could a pain medication actually make pain worse? First, it is important to know the difference between opioid-Induced hyperalgesia and opioid tolerance:

  • Opioid tolerance occurs when an individual does not receive the same effects of the original dose of opioids. This results in the desire to increase the dose. It is a sign that the opioid-dependent systems of the brain and central nervous system (CNS) are not working as well anymore because the drug is doing the job for them.
  • Opioid-Induced hyperalgesia is a little more severe and may occur along with opioid tolerance. OIH actually results when pain is genuinely becoming worse or simply remaining unchanged even when the opioid dose is increased.

Generally, there is no real way for the average doctor to tell these two situations apart. Most doctors are faced with patients who complain of increased pain or the fact that the opioid medications are no longer working. Doctors then make a few choices about what to do next, which may include the following:

  • Switching opioid drugs (which has its own risks)
  • Prescribing additional therapies or even surgery
  • Offering an opioid-antagonist or N-methyl D-aspartate drug, such as methadone or buprenorphine

None of these solutions are ideal. Ideally, the individual will not use opioid drugs in the first place. However, chronic pain is a tricky situation. Every case is different. Many people benefit from integrated treatment for pain and opioid dependence. Once an individual is dependent on these drugs, it may feel impossible to try and stop using them. However, when your life depends on it, and help is available, it is wise to choose supportive treatment.

Integrated treatment looks at each person as a whole, and with the help of both doctors and therapists, the individual can have support in stopping opioid medications and help to find better alternatives to pain management. To learn more about opioid dependence treatment for drugs like Percocet, call us today at our 24 hour, toll-free helpline.


[1] Seib, R. Opioids for Chronic Pain: Can Opioids Make Pain Worse? Wasser Pain Management Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital. https://www.mountsinai.on.ca/care/pain_management/footnotes-on-pain/OIH%20article_Rachael.pdf