Introduction Opioids are used for severe forms of acute and cancer pain. Over the last years, their potential use in patients with noncancer pain such as those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been postulated. A recent population-based comparative study showed that chronic opioid use was 12% vs. 4% among RA and non-RA patients, respectively. Another study showed an increase from 7.4% to 16.9% (2002 to 2015). In general, there has been an increasing tendency to use opioids in recent years. Areas covered The authors have performed an extensive literature search using PubMed for articles including noncancer pain and the use of the mu opioid receptor (MOR) agonists in patients with RA. Expert opinion Data is not sufficient to support opioid use for the treatment of chronic pain in patients with RA. Data is scarce and inconclusive. Rheumatologists should think and ponder the question: Why is this patient in pain? Differential diagnosis should include a disease flare, degenerative changes of the musculoskeletal system, and fibromyalgia. And while there are new strategies for opioid administration currently being researched, unfortunately, they are far from being applied to human subjects in the everyday clinical setting, and are still being evaluated at an experimental level. CNS Central nervous system; : delta opioid receptor agonists; : Gastrointestinal; : G protein-coupled receptors; Interleukin; Janus kinase; : kappa opioid receptor agonists; Metacarpophalangeal joints; Mu opioid receptor agonists; Metatarsophalangeal joints; Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugsOA: Osteoarthritis; : Opioid receptors; : Pharmacodynamic; Proximal interphalangeal joints; : Pharmacokinetic; : Peripheral nervous system; Rheumatoid arthritis; : Regulator of G protein signaling; : Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; Tumor necrosis factor.

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PubMed