Opioids for Chronic Pain: Understanding Physical Dependence





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Published on Oct 30, 2011

Physical dependence is not exactly the same as addiction. But they are closely related.

Physical dependence can make it very difficult for people to quit taking opioids. The withdrawal is not life threatening- but people will often feel sick when they try to taper off.

Drug companies and their physician spokesmen often minimize the discomfort associated with physical dependence, claiming that patients can be easily tapered off of opioids. Sometimes they compare physical dependence on opioids to other drugs that can produce withdrawal symptoms like caffeine, blood pressure medicine and antidepressants. These comparisons are unfair because discontinuing opioids is usually more difficult.

For many patients, discontinuing opioids can be difficult, even when they are slowly tapered.

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