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Opioids -- we love them. Or need them.

August 28, 2008 | 10:21 am

Opioids such as Vicodin, OxyContin and morphine are used to treat pain -- with which Americans are apparently sorely afflicted. More than 10 million of them take the drugs, researchers at Boston University have found, with 4 million people consuming the medications at least five days a week.

The researchers report that regular use of the drugs, which pose something of an addiction risk, rose with age, fell with education level  and was more common among women and whites. Their work, published in the Aug. 31 issue of the journal Pain, also found that use was more prevalent in the south central portion of the country.

Of course, these numbers likely don't include the teenagers nipping these and other prescription drugs from their parents' medicine cabinets or buying them on the sly, as documented in a recent study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. (Here's a recent story on that research from the Washington Post.)

Says Judy Parsells Kelly, lead author of the current research, in a news release: "The extent and characteristics of opioid use among U.S. adults reflected in this study reinforces the need to strike a rational balance between opioid misuse and effective control of chronic pain."

Yep.

Here's what the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has to say about chronic pain. And here's some information about prescription and over-the-counter pain drugs from the American Chronic Pain Foundation. Opioids are just a part of it.

And for a roundup of articles, advice and the general feeling that chronic pain sufferers are not alone, check out this blog from How to Cope With Pain.

-- Tami Dennis 

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