Current guidelines for addressing opioid cessation in the context of chronic pain management recommend that opioid discontinued if the risks outweigh the benefits. However, few studies have focused on understanding opioid cessation from the perspective of individuals with chronic pain. This mixed-method study included 49 former opioid users with chronic pain and used quantitative survey data and qualitative focus group data to identify themes pertaining to former opioid user’s experience before, during, and after opioid cessation. Participants described several reasons for wanting to stop opioids including lack of efficacy, impact on quality of life, and concerns about addiction.
Barriers to cessation included concerns about inadequate pain management and concerns about the impact of stopping opioids on mood. After opioid cessation, the sample was mixed regarding the benefit of cessation. Half of the former opioid users reported their pain to be better or the same after stopping opioids; however, 47% of the sample reported feeling worse pain since stopping their opioids. As the pendulum swings from pain control to drug control, we must ensure that the response to the opioid epidemic does not cause harm to individuals with chronic pain. Novel opioid cessation interventions are needed in combination with methods of addressing individual challenges and barriers to adequate pain relief including access to and provision of nonopioid alternatives for pain management.