A new study concludes 19 percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain.
Women and the elderly are most likely to have constant pain, HealthDay reports.
The findings come from a poll of about 35,000 American households. The researchers asked respondents if they suffer from chronic pain, defined as constant or frequent pain that lasts for at least three months.
Study author Jae Kennedy of Washington State University in Spokane said narcotic painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine can be helpful in treating chronic pain, but only on a short-term basis. "We are clearly overusing opioids [narcotics]," he told HealthDay. "The U.S. consumes about 80 percent of the world's opioid supply, and 99 percent of the hydrocodone supply. These medications are effective in the short term, [such as] for managing postoperative pain, but long-term use often leads to dependency or addiction."
The survey found many people with arthritis or back and join pain did not say they had constant and persistent pain. Of respondents who did have chronic pain, more than two-thirds said their pain was constant, and more than half said their pain was sometimes unbearable and excruciating.
The study appears in the Journal of Pain.
"If you're dealing with pain constantly for a long period of time, that's going to affect your work life, your family life, your social life. It also puts you at higher risk for things like mental illness and addiction," Kennedy said in a news release.
Bob Twillman, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the American Academy of Pain Management, noted narcotic painkillers are not helpful for many people with chronic pain. "Those medications are wonderful when they work, but on average, they only relieve about a third or less of the chronic pain people experience, and may be completely ineffective in treating some kinds of chronic pain," he said.