Education needed to address concerns about opioid misuse

01 August, 2012

ABC's Insight on Tuesday night queried the practice and regulation of opioid use in pain management, Australians need pain relief, but is there a line between managed pain and addicts?

"Concern about misuse of prescribed pharmaceuticals and the reported  increased prescribing of opioid drugs by GPs highlight the need for improved education for GPs about pain and best practice multidisciplinary pain management strategies, " said Painaustralia CEO Lesley Brydon in reference to a recent article in the MJA.

This includes education for people living with pain and their families and carers and the potential for patients to be trained to develop their own knowledge of pain and effective self-management strategies.

Implementation of a national real time opioid monitoring system would also assist to manage inappropriate use of opioids and at the same time help overcome the associated issue of opioid diversion.
These and other recommendations are included in the National Pain Strategy developed in 2010 by over 150 health care and consumer organisations concerned with pain. The strategy contains a comprehensive set of recommendations which call for changes to the health system to allow for:

  • Access to best practice pain management education for health professionals and the general population
  • Coordination of the care system to ensure timely access to the right support for people living with pain, in the community and at primary care and tertiary levels
  • A quality improvement program to address access and standards of care
  • A reasonable proportion of dedicated funding for pain research.

The National Pain Strategy reports that 3.2 million Australians live with chronic pain and this number is set to increase dramatically with the aging population, with one in three older people suffering chronic pain according to Access Economics.
Patients face long waiting times to access multi-disciplinary pain services in public hospitals – frequently more than one year – resulting in deterioration in quality of life and reduction in ability to return to work
There is extensive evidence to show that at least half of those with chronic pain also experience depression and thoughts of suicide are common. A Suicide Prevention Australia report notes that in 2006 21 per cent of people who died by suicide experienced physical health problems, including chronic pain which may have contributed to their death.
Painaustralia was formed as a national not for profit body to work with governments, consumers, health professionals and other stakeholders to facilitate implementation of the National Pain Strategy.
"There is an urgent need to provide education and access to pain services, in particular for people in regional and rural areas, indigenous communities, socio-economically disadvantaged Australians, as well for children and adolescents and the elderly," said Brydon.

Source: Painaustralia