Alexander DeLuca, M.D.
Addiction, Pain, & Public Health website

[Home] [Library]  [Slides]  [Search]  [Medline]  [Links]

[Statements of Purpose, Ownership, Sponsorship. Privacy,  Email Confidentiality, and Advertising Policies]

Principles of Opioid Management Of Pain

Joel Hochman, M.D. and the membership of the Treatment and Prevention of Pain and Chemical Dependency listServ
National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain and the Pain Relief Network; Summer 2006. Posted: 2006-09-03.
Related resources:  
Pain and Opioid Therapy archives  ;  War on Docs Academic, Legal, Official archives  ;  Drug War Journalism and Advocacy archives
See also:
Chronic Pain:  I - A New Disease?  ;  II - The Case for Opiates -
Daniel Brookoff; Hospital Practice; 2000
'High Dosage' Opioid Management - Considerations in Treating Intractable Pain - Hochman, MD, Practical Pain Management; 2005
White Paper on Opioids and Pain: A Pan-European Challenge
- compiled by OPEN Minds; 2005
Prescription Pain Meds - The DEA FAQ - DEA / Last Acts Partnership / Wisconsin Pain Study Group; 2006
WAR ON PAIN SUFFERERS Special Collections - Introduction and Table of Contents
War on Doctors and Pain Crisis Weekly - RSS feed:
  HTML view:

The Project On Pain And Chemical Dependency
“Defining What Is Right, Not What Is Wrong"

1. In using opioids, standard pharmacological principles shall be followed.

a.  The drug initially selected shall be chosen following the WHO guidelines as to a “ladder” approach, starting with an appropriate opioid and moving upwards on the list of available drugs based entirely upon clinical success in controlling the pain being treated. The choice of initial drug should be based solely upon the need of the patient, experience of the physician, sound pharmacologic principles, and, where necessary, cost. The dose and schedule of the drug shall be titrated upwards, following reasonable rates of increase, with careful monitoring for complications and adverse effects, noting same in the clinical record. Any increase successfully tolerated by the patient shall be considered reasonable. Similarly, any regimen tolerated by the patient with successful outcome in controlling the pain shall be considered reasonable.

Adverse effects and complications shall be noted in the record, and utilized in deciding changes in drugs, additions of drugs, or modification of doses or schedules of dosing.

2. Standard pharmacological resources (such as the Physicians Desk Reference) should be utilized in the choice of initial doses and schedules. But substantial variations occur in patient responses to various drugs and in patient metabolism of these drugs. These standard resources do not reflect these variations and are not the final word on dosing. But they are useful references and should be utilized in the choice of initial doses and schedules – particularly when the physician lacks substantial experience in adjusting treatment to patient response.

a.  As no maximum dose or schedule exists for any opioid medication, the maximum dose or schedule utilized shall be determined only by clinical outcome.

Respiratory depression is the principal clinical event that shall be used to determine maximum dose and/or schedule. Patients shall be carefully instructed in observing for this adverse event and in the appropriate actions that should be taken in the event of respiratory depression. Other adverse effects, such as sedation, nausea, itching, and constipation should be managed symptomatically and noted in the record. If adverse effects continue to be severe, and cannot be symptomatically relieved, alternative opioids should be substituted.

Physiological dependency shall be carefully explained to patients and distinguished, in writing, from Addictive Disorders. Physiological dependency, in which a syndrome of physiological symptoms occur when the drug is reduced in dose or withdrawn, shall be clearly distinguished from an addiction, in which the compulsive use of a substance, often in escalating doses unauthorized by the physician, continues despite the clearly destructive consequences to the user - physically, legally, functionally and socially. Patients shall be carefully instructed in this distinction, with clear emphasis that when the use of a drug results in improved functionality and reduced symptoms, it shall not be misidentified as an addiction.

Pseudoaddiction, in which the patient seeks additional medication because they have not been prescribed sufficient medication to contain their pain, shall not be misidentified as addiction, and patients suffering this situation shall not be pejoratively labeled as "drug-seeking".

Patients will NOT be misinformed that the use of opioid substances will lead to addiction, as there is no scientifically defensible evidence that this occurs.

Patients will not be misinformed that opioids cause organ toxicity or brain damage.

3. Opioids shall be employed only to relieve pain and suffering in which:

a. A diagnosis has been reliably established, if possible. This can be achieved by the summation of prior medical treatment and medical records; through the consensus of medical specialists; or by the findings of appropriate diagnostics. However, when pain is present and the diagnosis remains elusive or undeterminable because of the limits of current medical knowledge, the physician must believe their patient - unless there is a scientifically defensible basis for concluding that the patient is malingering or reliable evidence emerges that reveals the pain is factitious. Physicians operating in good faith, utilizing these principles, shall not be held legally or professionally responsible for patient duplicity.

The pain must be treated by all available modalities - pharmacological, physiatric, psychiatric, psychological, interventional, surgical, adjunctive and alternative, with the choice of priorities and emphasis determined by the physician and patient in collaboration. As new knowledge emerges about the neurophysiology of pain, it will be clinically incorporated as fast as it becomes available. The first priority shall always be to achieve the quickest, most efficient and effective, lasting and helpful, relief possible. Suffering, functional impairment, deterioration and compromise in activities of daily living, all resulting in an unacceptably compromised Quality of Life, are incompatible with the standard of care when treatment alternatives to prevent this are available. An acceptable Quality of Life shall be defined as a Life that any ordinary person would find acceptable.

4. Pain levels will be assessed, based upon a consistent set of written criteria (see below), on a regular basis in evaluating the effectiveness of opioid treatment and the goal of treatment will be to contain the pain to a level no higher than 3 or 4, if clinically possible. If pain levels exceed 7 - 8 on a regular basis, despite an adequate trial as to dose, schedule and combination of agents, interventional treatment with injections, an opioid pump, or spinal cord stimulator, should be considered and appropriate consultation sought from a qualified specialist. Under no circumstances will recurrent pain levels of 10 be permitted to occur.

5. Progress in treatment will be assessed on a regular basis, but no less than every three months. A written record of progress in range of motion, activities of daily living, and pain levels will be consistently recorded in the patient’s records. This can be done both by physician notations or patient reporting. Pain control sufficient to permit progress in vocational activities and financial self-sufficiency will be accepted as prima facie evidence of the legitimacy and necessity of medical management of pain with opioids. In some patients illness is so severe that "progress" is not possible. As with the dying, for these patients palliative pain care is completely appropriate and acceptable.

6. These regulations confirm that legitimate pain patients have an absolute right to treatment adequate to contain their pain at levels acceptable to an ordinary person.

7. Opiophobia is herewith stated to be the categorical opposition to the use of opioids:

a. which is based upon prejudice with no medically or scientifically defensible basis;

and, when it causes the denial of appropriate pain management in the treatment of patients, is professionally unacceptable, inadequate medical care, and incompatible with the Standard of Medical Care in the State of Texas.


0 - No pain

1 - Occasional pain effectively managed by Aspirin, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, one tablet, three times a day or less, or by opioids with no limitations on activities of daily living.

2 - Frequent pain, managed only by 1 or more tablets of ASA (asprin), acetaminophen, ibuprofen, every four hours, or by opioids with slight impairments of activities of daily living.

3 -  Frequent pain, not effectively managed by NSAIDs, requiring an opioid medication, with mild restrictions on activities of daily living

4 -  Frequent pain, moderately affecting activities of daily living, but still controlled by opioid medications

5 -  Frequent or almost constant pain. Contained by opioids, but still causing significant limitations on activities of daily living and occasionally causing the patient to be house or bed confined

6 - Constant pain, moderately contained by opioids, but with frequent limitations of activities of daily living. Frequently causes confinement to bed or the house.

7 - Constant pain, only partially contained by opioids at the doses prescribed, with continuous limitation of activities of daily living

8 - Constant pain, frequently disabling, making most activities of daily living difficult if at all possible

9 - Constant pain, uncontained by prescribed medications and doses, completely disabling of activities of daily living, requiring interventions or assistance by others, preventing any form of employment and fully qualifying the patient for Social Security Disability

10 - Intolerable pain requiring emergency room treatment, generally with opioid injections.



Dr. DeLuca's Addiction, Pain, and Public Health Website

Alexander DeLuca, M.D.

[Top of Page]

Originally posted: 2006-09-01

All Email to: 

Statements of Purpose, Ownership, Sponsorship. Privacy,  Email Confidentiality, and Advertising Policies

Most recently revised: 2006-09-03
Copyright: Creative Commons 2006

We subscribe to the HONcode principles of the HON Foundation. Click to    This website is in compliance with the HONcode. Pin # = HONConduct911193. Verify HONcode Status.   We subscribe to the HONcode principles of the HON Foundation. Click to

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License