AI could help patients with chronic pain avoid opioids

Nardy Baeza Bickel

University of Michigan - School of Public Health

Aug 12, 2022

Health/Medicine - bunch of pills.  iStock purchase 463594335.

ANN ARBOR—Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective alternative to opioid painkillers for managing chronic pain. But getting patients to complete those programs is challenging, especially because psychotherapy often requires multiple sessions and mental health specialists are scarce.

A new study suggests that pain CBT supported by artificial intelligence renders the same results as guideline-recommended programs delivered by therapists, while requiring substantially less clinician time, making this therapy more accessible.

"Chronic pain is incredibly common: back pain, osteoarthritis, migraine headaches and more. Because of pain, people miss work, develop depression, some people drink more alcohol than is healthy, and chronic pain is one of the main drivers of the opioid epidemic," said John Piette, a professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health and senior research scientist at the Veterans Administration.

"We're very excited about the results of this study, because we were able to demonstrate that we can achieve pain outcomes that are at least as good as standard cognitive behavioral therapy programs, and maybe even better. And we did that with less than half the therapist time as guideline-recommended approaches."

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