Opioids are a class of drugs commonly prescribed for pain relief. They can be effective in managing pain, but they also carry a high risk of addiction, dependence, and overdose. As such, responsible opioid prescribing is essential to ensure that patients receive the necessary pain relief while minimizing the risks associated with opioid use.
What is responsible opioid prescribing?
According to National Library of Medicine, responsible opioid prescribing involves a careful assessment of a patient’s pain and risk factors for opioid misuse or addiction before prescribing opioids. This assessment includes a thorough medical history, a physical examination, and a review of the patient’s medical records.
The following are some key principles of responsible opioid prescribing:
- Use opioids only when necessary
Opioids should be prescribed only when other pain relief options have failed or are not appropriate. For example, non-opioid pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, physical therapy, or nerve blocks should be tried before opioids are prescribed.
- Start with the lowest effective dose
Opioids should be started at the lowest possible dose and increased gradually only if necessary. This helps to reduce the risk of adverse effects, including overdose.
- Monitor patients closely
Patients receiving opioids should be monitored closely for signs of opioid misuse or addiction, such as requesting early refills, taking more medication than prescribed, or engaging in drug-seeking behaviors. Monitoring should also include regular assessments of pain, function, and quality of life.
- Use prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)
PDMPs are electronic databases that track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances, including opioids. They can help prescribers identify patients who are receiving opioids from multiple providers or who may be at increased risk of opioid-related problems.
- Provide patient education
As per National Institute of Drugs Abuse, patients receiving opioids should be educated about the risks and benefits of opioid use, as well as strategies to minimize the risks. This includes information on proper storage and disposal of opioids, as well as the signs of overdose and how to respond in an emergency.
Why is responsible opioid prescribing important?
Responsible opioid prescribing is important because opioid misuse and addiction have become a public health crisis in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2019, with opioids accounting for more than 70% of those deaths.
Many of these deaths involved prescription opioids, and research has shown that long-term opioid use for chronic pain is associated with a higher risk of overdose, addiction, and other adverse effects. By following responsible opioid prescribing practices, healthcare providers can help to reduce the risk of opioid-related harms while ensuring that patients receive the pain relief they need.
This includes avoiding overprescribing opioids, using the lowest effective dose, and carefully monitoring patients for signs of opioid misuse or addiction. In conclusion, responsible opioid prescribing is essential for ensuring that patients receive appropriate pain relief while minimizing the risks associated with opioid use. By following key principles of responsible prescribing, healthcare providers can help to address the opioid crisis and improve patient outcomes in the long run.