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.
- 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.
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