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J Pain. 2010 Jul;11(7):602-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 May 4.

Approaches to improve pain relief while minimizing opioid abuse liability.

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Lifetree Clinical Research and Pain Clinic, Salt Lake City, Utah 84106, USA.


Two strategies should greatly improve pain management while minimizing opioid abuse. The first strategy involves the systematic implementation in every clinical practice of "universal precautions," a set of procedures that help physicians implement opioid therapy in a safe and controlled manner. These procedures include: 1) carefully assessing the patient's risk for opioid abuse; 2) selecting the most appropriate opioid therapy; 3) regularly monitoring the patient to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of the treatment and to detect possible aberrant behaviors; and 4) mapping out solutions if abuse and/or addiction is detected, or in case of treatment failure. The second strategy involves the use of opioid formulations designed to deter or prevent product tampering and abuse. Results of clinical trials of new formulations of existing opioids (including oxycodone, morphine, and hydromorphone) suggest the potential for reduced abuse liability and, if approved, will be evaluated after launch for reduced real-world abuse. Integration of these formulations in clinical practices based on universal precautions should help further minimize the risk of opioid abuse while fostering appropriate prescribing to patients with indications for opioid therapy.


Undertreated pain and prescription opioid abuse remain important public health problems. In the absence of strong empirical evidence, common sense dictates that a universal-precautions approach-a systematic and easily adopted process that clinicians can quickly put into practice-is advised to promote safe opioid prescribing. Abuse- and tamper-resistant opioid formulations are emerging tools that may enhance safe opioid prescribing; further research and postmarketing analysis will clarify their utility and role in clinical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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