Does Integrative Medicine Reduce Prescribed Opioid Use for Chronic Pain? A Systematic Literature Review


Chronic pain (CP) is a major public health problem. Many patients with CP are increasingly prescribed opioids, which has led to an opioid crisis. Integrative medicine (IM), which combines pharmacological and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), has been proposed as an opioid alternative for CP treatment. Nevertheless, the role of CAM therapies in reducing opioid use remains unclear.


To explore the effectiveness of the IM approach or any of the CAM therapies to reduce or cease opioid use in CP patients.


An online search of MEDLINE and Embase, CINAHL, PubMed supp., and Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) for studies published in English from inception until February 15, 2018, was conducted. The Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT) was used to critically appraise selected studies.


The electronic search yielded 5,200 citations. Twenty-three studies were selected. Eight studies were randomized controlled trials, seven were retrospective studies, four studies were prospective observational, three were cross-sectional, and one was quasi-experimental. The majority of the studies showed that opioid use was reduced significantly after using IM. Cannabinoids were among the most commonly investigated approaches in reducing opioid use, followed by multidisciplinary approaches, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and acupuncture. The majority of the studies had limitations related to sample size, duration, and study design.


There is a small but defined body of literature demonstrating positive preliminary evidence that the IM approach including CAM therapies can help in reducing opioid use. As the opioid crisis continues to grow, it is vital that clinicians and patients be adequately informed regarding the evidence and opportunities for IM/CAM therapies for CP.



Title of abstract:
Does Integrative Medicine Reduce Prescribed Opioid Use for Chronic Pain? A Systematic Literature Review

Samah Hassan, Qingping Zheng, Erica Rizzolo, Evrim Tezcanli, Sukriti Bhardwaj, Kieran Cooley


Pain Medicine