Advertisement
Perspectives

Why and how should we wean patients off their opioids? The pendulum has swung

PENNY BRISCOE

Figures

Abstract

Opioids are being increasingly used to treat patients with chronic noncancer pain. However, long-term use of opioids is associated with substantial risk of harm and uncertain benefits and should be avoided or only used in low dose for a limited time in these patients. Improvements in pain, function and quality of life are often reported when patients have been weaned off opioid medication.

Key Points

  • Up to 20% of people in Australia have chronic pain, and opioids are increasingly being used to treat these patients in what is being described as a ‘prescription opioid abuse epidemic’.
  • Opioids are useful for acute pain and at end of life; however, they should be avoided or only used in low dose for a limited term in patients with chronic noncancer pain.
  • Long-term use of opioids increases the risk of harm both to the patient and the community.
  • Almost as many Australians die from overdose of prescription opioids as they do from road accidents each year.
  • When patients are weaned off their opioids, they often report improvements in pain, function and quality of life.

    Picture credit: © Ace Stock/Diomedia.com

Figures