Patient Information Resources

Centre for Orthopaedics
Suite 10-33/34/35 Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
38 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore, 329563, Singapore
Ph: (65) 6684 5828
Fax: (65) 6684 5829

Child Orthopedics
Pain Management
Spine - Cervical
Spine - General
Spine - Lumbar
Spine - Thoracic

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Is it safe to take narcotics for months (up to years)? I'm at 12 months going on the start of my second year and concerned. It's for chronic back pain that isn't likely to go away.

People who have severe, chronic pain may be given the option of taking opioid medications (narcotics) to help manage their pain and live some semblance of a normal life. For those who are not facing end-of-life issues with cancer, this can become a life-long management tool. Whenever opioids are discussed, there is always a concern raised about safety, especially physical dependency and addiction. Experts agree that with the right drug and dosage, patients who are monitored carefully and consistently by their medical doctors can manage their pain effectively -- and without the down side of addiction or physical dependency. But as new evidence shows, addiction isn't the only adverse effect of opioids. Difficulty concentrating, memory loss, slower physical reaction time, and slower processing of information are additional potential side effects of these powerful pain relievers. Some experts in the area of pain research have suggested that anyone who is given a prescription for opioids should also be given a simple baseline test to assess cognitive function. Then if it turns out the prescription becomes a long-term event, retesting can be done. Any observed change(s) in cognitive function would signal the need to review the medication and possibly change the drug or drug dosage. If you notice anything unusual, the onset of new (or different) symptoms, and any change in the intensity, duration, or frequency of your current symptoms, report these immediately to your physician. Otherwise, if you are experiencing good control of your pain without any compromising changes in your health, you are "good-to-go" as the modern phrase puts it so well.


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