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Vivien Williams: 50 million. That's how many people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain. Many turn to opioid painkillers for relief.

Mike Hooten, M.D. (Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic): The evidence is not all that clear about the efficacy of those drugs long-term for chronic pain.

Vivien Williams: Mayo Clinic pain management specialist Dr. Mike Hooten says what is clear about these painkillers is the risk associated with taking them.

Mike Hooten, M.D.: The problems of addiction, but a related problem of accidental overdose deaths.

Vivien Williams: Morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone are commonly prescribed opioids. Dr. Hooten says they are very effective when used short-term for pain, for example, after a surgery. For long-term use …

Mike Hooten, M.D.: There are a small group of studies that may show some benefit in in certain highly select groups of patients.

Vivien Williams: But, for many cases of chronic pain, Dr. Hooten says non-opioid pain relievers combined with other therapies, such as stress management can help people manage pain and maintain a high quality of life. For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Vivien Williams.

March 22, 2018