Smokers More Prone to Long-Term Prescription Painkiller Use

Jan. 22, 2010 -- THURSDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) Smoking, as well as the medicinal use of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, are independent predictors of longer-term opioid pain medication use among patients with chronic back pain caused by lumbar spine conditions, a new U.S. study finds.

The study included over 2,100 patients recruited from 13 spine specialty centers in 11 states. Of those patients, 42 percent said they used opioids for their back pain and one-third said they take opioids every day.

The researchers analyzed the medical, social and demographic characteristics of the participants and concluded that smoking and nonsurgical treatment independently predicted long-term opioid use, but pain severity did not.

Smoking can be a marker for substance abuse disorders, the researchers noted.

They said that, for some patients, the risks associated with long-term use of opioids to manage back pain may outweigh the risks of surgery. The researchers suggested this may be a factor to consider when doctors make decisions about surgery for patients with herniated discs or stenosis, especially those with a history of substance abuse.

The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Pain.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more about back pain.

SOURCE: American Pain Society, news release, January 2009