What are the myths about using opioids to treat cancer pain?
Many patients are reluctant to use opioids such as morphine, oxycodon, fentanyl, buprenorphine or methadon. These drugs should, of course, only be used in cases of severe pain and they do have side effects.
However, the fear of using opioids is very often based on prejudice or myths, such as:
1. Opioids are addictive!!
Not true: if you do not use more than you need to treat the pain, you will not become addicted.
2. Once you start using opioids, your days are over!!
Not true: strong painkillers are used to treat severe pain. If the pain decreases, for example, because treatment of the cancer is successful, you can reduce the morphine dosage in consultation with your doctor.
3. Using opioids means you have entered the final stage of a disease!!
Not true: morphine is simply a very effective painkiller that is used to treat severe pain, irrespective of the duration or severity of your disease.
4. It is best to take as few painkillers as possible!!
Not true: of course you should never use too many painkillers. But you should remember that pain can often be worse for you than painkillers.
5. Only take painkillers when you start to feel the pain!!
Not true: you should take painkillers at regular intervals in order to achieve basic pain relief. If you wait until the pain starts, you will be too late and will not achieve effective pain relief.
6. Opioids can cause apnoea!!
Not true: if you only take what painkillers are necessary to treat your pain, you will not suffer from apnoea.