FRIDAY, Dec. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Prescriptions for opioid
painkillers to treat chronic abdominal pain more than doubled in
the United States between 1997 and 2008, according to a new
This large increase of prescriptions written at outpatient
clinics is concerning for several reasons, said lead author Dr.
Spencer Dorn, an assistant professor of medicine at the University
of North Carolina Medical School at Chapel Hill, and
Very little evidence exists to support the use of opioids to
treat chronic pain that isn't cancer related, and opioids are
frequently misused and sometimes abused, Dorn said. Extended use of
opioids can trigger other gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea,
vomiting and constipation, and may even worsen abdominal pain, he
The study appears in the December issue of the journal
Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Chronic abdominal pain is a common problem but is often
incurable, which can make it challenging for doctors to help
patients, the researchers said.
"Writing a prescription for a painkiller may be the path of least resistance; doing so may satisfy the patient's demand for relief and mitigate the clinician's possible feelings of inadequacy," Dorn said in a journal news release.
Numerous factors have likely contributed to the sharp rise in
the use of opioids to treat chronic abdominal pain, the researchers
said. These include a tendency to generalize recommendations for
opioids' use in treating pain and widespread direct-to-consumer
The American College of Gastroenterology has more about