Are Opiates Right for Fibromyalgia?


Opiates are potent anagelsia used to treat acute pain in cancer patients. In the recent two decades, opiates are becoming a choice of pain treatment for people suffering from non-cancer chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or chronic migraine. However, more and more studies found evidence that the drug may cause adverse effect when administered chronically..

What are opiates

Opiates are a class of drugs derived from opium or the juice of poppy plant. (Yes, it is THE opium which is notorious for its illicit uses) Opiates, also known as opioids, is used medically to treat pain. It helps in treating pain by acting on the opioid receptors, found in the brain, spinal cord, and other organs, to dampen pain signals to the brain and numb pain. Opiates also produce a state of euphoria for pain patients who are often depressed.

Who uses opiates

People suffering from unbearable pain such as cancer or chronic pain disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis are given opiates in discretion. According to studies, around 30% of fibromyalgia patients are regularly consuming opiates, a class of pharmaceutical painkillers. Opiates help to reduce pain but only temporarily in fibromyalgia patients. Often opiates are only administered when the patient cannot find relief from other painkillers such as analgesic or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

However, the use of opiates remains controvesial as it can come with serious side effects that can lead to death. Click next to continue reading…

How effective is opiates for fibromyalgia?

80% of fibromyalgia patients complain of being in pain always and the severity of fibromyalgia pain is decribed to be more painful than having multiple sclerosis. Usually, doctors prescribe opiates to fibromyalgia patients out of compassion for their predicament so that their pain can be alleviated.

Opiate can worsen fibromyalgia pain
However, studies have found that while being a potent painkiller for chronic pain, long term usage of the drug could adversely make pain worse. Opiates is found to increase sensitivity to other pain stimuli or lower pain threshold, a condition known as opioid-induced hyperalgesia. It remains unclear whether the hyperalgesia is caused by long term usage or withdrawal from the drug.

Chronic pain patients develop tolerance to opiates
As people tend to develop analgesic tolerance to the drug, patients have to depend on a higher dosage of the painkiller for pain relief after a certain period of time. Studies suggest that the analgesic effectiveness of the same dosage of opiates can be last up to eight weeks, however, little is known on the performance of the same dosage beyond the period of eight weeks.

It is also becoming more evident that some patients require faster dosage escalation and some attempt to get more prescriptions by visiting different clinics. Hence, although short term use of opiates appears effective in relieving pain in fibromyalgia, long term use of the drug can cause more concerning problems such as abuse, addiction and the two abovementioned factors.

Other side effects of using opiates every day

  • Opiates will no doubt help you to get relief from the pain, but when you consume it on a daily basis, you may end up being addicted to it.
  • Opiates can cause breathing disorders.
  • Irregularity in bowel movement is common. Constipation is a major side effect of consuming opiates.
  • The overdose of the medicine may trigger complications in your physical health, especially when you suffer from serious ailments like diabetes, kidney dysfunction, heart disease and so on.
  • Abuse or overdose of opiates can lead to respiratory failure and death.
  • Opiates are believed to cause psychological issues in patients such as unstable metal symptoms, suicidal tendencies.

In conclusion, it is better for opiates to be taken in low dosages and for a shorter period of time. Fibromyalgia patients should look to discontinue the use of opiates eventually.


  1. Von Korff M., et al. Long-Term Opioid Therapy Reconsidered. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Sep 6; 155(5): 325–328.
  2. Brush E. Complications of Long-Term Opioid Therapy for Management of Chronic Pain: the Paradox of Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia. J Med Toxicol. 2012 Dec; 8(4): 387–392.
  3. Lee M, et al. A comprehensive review of opioid-induced hyperalgesia. Pain Physician. 2011 Mar-Apr;14(2):145-61.
  4. Rosenblum A, et al. Opioids and the Treatment of Chronic Pain: Controversies, Current Status, and Future Directions. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2008 Oct; 16(5): 405–416.
  5. Fields H. L., MD PhD. The Doctor’s Dilemma: opiate analgesics and chronic pain. Neuron. 2011 Feb 24; 69(4): 591–594. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.02.001

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