Managing addiction in advanced cancer patients: Why Bother?

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The management of addiction in patients with advanced cancer can be time-consuming, labor-intensive, and difficult. Some clinicians believe that it is not worth the effort, due in part to a failure to appreciate the deleterious impact of addiction on palliative care efforts and a view of addiction as intractable in any case. Indeed, it is possible that some clinicians perceive addiction not only fatalistically but, because of common misconceptions, believe that managing or attempting to decrease the patient's use of alcohol or illicit substances would be tantamount to depriving a dying patient of a source of pleasure. In this paper, we argue that managing addiction is an essential aspect of palliative care for chemically-dependent and alcoholic patients. The goal of such efforts is not complete abstinence, but exerting enough control over illicit drug and alcohol use to allow palliative care interventions to decrease suffering. To illustrate this view, we describe two patients with chemical-dependency. We highlight the impact of unchecked substance abuse on patients' perpetuation of their own suffering, the complication of symptom management, the diagnosis and treatment of mood/anxiety disorders, and the effect on the patients' family and caregivers. Copyright (C) 2000 U.S. Cancer Pain Relief Committee.




Passik, S. D., & Theobald, D. E. (2000). Managing addiction in advanced cancer patients: Why Bother? Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 19(3), 229–234.

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