The Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) and North Coast Primary Health Network (NCPHN) are collaborating to address the issue of the escalating use of opioid medications in the management of non-cancer pain.
While opioids can be very effective in relieving short-term pain, when used inappropriately they can give rise to dependence, addiction and death.
A collaborative project between the NNSWLHD and NCPHN aims to increase public awareness of this problem, engage the community in seeking solutions, and provide additional education for clinical staff.
A series of education workshops were recently held to bring together General Practitioners, Pharmacists, hospital staff including medical, nursing and allied health, and community staff to discuss alternatives to opioids in the management of pain and collaborative cessation plans for occasions when opioids need to be used.
NNSWLHD Project Coordinator Dr Abbey Perumpanani said most of the opioid-induced deaths nationally are considered accidental (85%), with just one-tenth recorded as intentional, mirroring what is seen locally.
“Opioid overdose deaths and errors are increasing, particularly among older Australians who are being prescribed opioid analgesics for pain conditions,” Dr Perumpanani said.
“What complicates the picture for this group is that they may be on a number of medications, as well as have underlying health complications such as cardiac or breathing problems. These factors undoubtedly increase the risk of overdose.
“More people are also surviving accidents, major surgical interventions and medical treatments. This in turn leads to an increasing prevalence of chronic pain and an increasing number of prescriptions to manage that pain.
“Through this project we hope to use a two-pronged approach to address the issue of opioid overdose and misuse in our community by engaging both consumers and health professionals.”
The Agency for Clinical Innovation, through its Pain Management Network, also has resources to help patients and clinicians improve their pain management strategies.
The 2018-19 Budget commits $225.3 million to alcohol and other drug health-related services.