Concern over opioid use

New research by the Centre of Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences has found that weak opioid use is often associated with transition to stronger opioids or higher doses.

The researched, which was published in leading journal, Addiction, revealed that more than one in 13 Australians who start using weak opioid pain medication such as codeine, tramadol and tapentadol, transition to stronger opioids such as morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone.

“This research is the first of its kind to reveal the number of Australians who transition from weak to strong opioids, or from lower to higher doses,” said Director of CMUS, Professor Simon Bell.

CMUS research fellow and Monash Health pharmacist, Dr Samanta Lalic who analysed opioid dispensing data from Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from July 2013 to January 2018, added:

“High-dose opioid use has been linked with increased falls, fractures, hospitalisation, motor vehicle accidents, overdose and death.

“Other findings help identify groups of people who are at risk of transitioning to stronger or higher doses of opioids. This knowledge is important for planning strategies to better anticipate and manage potential harms when opioid pain medications are initiated.”

Groups shown to more rapidly transition to strong and high-dose opioids include older people, males and people treated for cancer.

Dr Lalic adds that the decision to escalate to a higher dose or to change to stronger medications should be careful considered and managed.

The research highlights the need for effective strategies to mitigate the risk of opioid related harm.

Click here for more information on the CMUS.

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