Opioid addiction – need for vigilance

Categories: Care.

In an editorial in the BMJ, Cathy Stannard from Frenchay Hospital warns that the UK could face the same problems that the USA is currently experiencing – where there has been an increase in the prescription of opioid analgesics, and an increase in deaths from these drugs.

She highlights research that shows that in the UK opioids are being prescribed more often and for longer periods than would be predicted by their known effectiveness, and in doses above which research shows that the harm caused outweighs the benefits from the drug.

Cathy highlights the need of prescribers to be aware of the broader public health concerns, and make treatment decisions based on current evidence a well as a comprehensive assessment of the patient’s problems.

She calls on prescribers to learn from the US and keep in touch with the current debate, so as to “balance the competing imperatives of ensuring a pragmatic and compassionate approach to supporting patients with pain and avoiding the risk of creating problems for individuals and society.”

Source: Opioids in the UK: what’s the problem? BMJ 2013;347:f5108