Study: Opioids Don’t Improve Quality of Life

Cancer patients may be an exception, according to research

The stated goal of opioid pain relievers is to improve quality of life by masking or reducing pain and lessening the emotional toll. Now, researchers are starting to believe they aren’t accomplishing their mission.

Health Services Research recently published a study in which researchers tracked data from patients who participated in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The survey asked about respondents’ level of pain, use of opioids, and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) based on responses to two questionnaires—one on mental health and one on physical health.

Drawing on almost 6,000 respondents, the research group divided patients into three categories:

  • a no-use group;
  • non-chronic opioid users (those who reported receiving at least 1 opioid prescription over a 12-month period but with a supply for fewer than 90 days);
  • chronic opioid users—those who reported receiving a prescription for opioids with a supply of 90 days or more in a 12-month period.

After controlling for variables, results indicated that the use of opioids did not improve HRQoL to any measurable degree.

“Overall, these results suggest that opioid use is not associated with better HRQoL [as measured through the tests included in MEPS],” wrote researchers.


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