- The opioid crisis that exists today developed over the past 30 years. The reasons for this are many. Good intentions to improve pain and suffering led to increased prescribing of opioids, which contributed to misuse of opioids and even death. Following the publication of a short letter to the editor in a major medical journal declaring that those with chronic pain who received opioids rarely became addicted, prescriber attitude toward opioid use changed. Opioids were no longer reserved for treatment of acute pain or terminal pain conditions but now were used to treat any pain condition.
- The opioid epidemic is the most important and most serious public health crisis today. The effects are reported in overdose deaths but are also starkly evident in declines in sense of well-being and general health coupled with increasing all-cause mortality, particularly among the middle-aged white population.1 As exceptionally well described by Rummans et al2 in this issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the cause of the epidemic is multifactorial, including an overinterpretation of a now infamous New England Journal of Medicine letter describing addiction as a rare occurrence in hospitalized patients treated with opioids, initiatives from the Joint Commission directed toward patient satisfaction and the labeling of pain as the “5th vital sign,” the advent of extended-release oxycodone (OxyContin), an aggressive marketing campaign from Purdue Pharma L.P., and the influx of heroin and fentanyl derivatives.
- Headache is a common, disabling neurologic problem in all age groups, including older adults. In older adults, headache is most likely a primary disorder, such as tension-type headache or migraine; however, there is a higher risk of secondary causes, such as giant cell arteritis or intracranial lesions, than in younger adults. Thus, based on the headache history, clinical examination, and presence of headache red flags, a focused diagnostic evaluation is recommended, ranging from blood tests to neuroimaging, depending on the headache characteristics.
- An urgent need exists to better understand the transition from short-term opioid use to unintended prolonged opioid use (UPOU). The purpose of this work is to propose a conceptual framework for understanding UPOU that posits the influence of 3 principal domains that include the characteristics of (1) individual patients, (2) the practice environment, and (3) opioid prescribers. Although no standardized method exists for developing a conceptual framework, the process often involves identifying corroborative evidence, leveraging expert opinion to identify factors for inclusion in the framework, and developing a graphic depiction of the relationships between the various factors and the clinical problem of interest.