Pain, Opioid Analgesics, and Cognition: A Conceptual Framework in Older Adults

Nafisseh S. Warner, Michelle M. Mielke, Brandon P. Verdoorn, David S. Knopman, William M. Hooten, Elizabeth B. Habermann, David O. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic pain is highly prevalent in older adults and is associated with poor functional outcomes. Furthermore, opioid analgesics are commonly utilized for the treatment of pain in older adults despite well-described adverse effects. Importantly, both chronic pain and opioid analgesics have been linked with impairments in cognitive function, though data are limited. In this manuscript we summarize the evidence and critical knowledge gaps regarding the relationships between pain, opioid analgesics, and cognition in older adults. Furthermore, we provide a conceptual framework to guide future research in the development, implementation, and evaluation of strategies to optimize analgesic outcomes in older adults while minimizing deleterious effects on cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-181
Number of pages11
JournalPain medicine (Malden, Mass.)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023


  • Analgesics
  • Cognition
  • Opioids
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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