Systematic efforts may help lower the level of opioids that patients use, a new study concludes.
These steps include educating prescribers and limiting doses for patients prescribed chronic opioid therapy.
The study found taking these steps also raises awareness among doctors and patients of the potential dangers of opioids, MedicalXpress reports.
The study included 514 patients prescribed long-term opioid treatment. In one group of patients, an aggressive program to educate doctors, patients, and promote safe tapering of opioid doses helped 37 percent of patients taper their doses to what is considered a safer level—120 milligrams daily of “morphine equivalent.” In many cases, patient doses were cut almost in half. Women were less successful with opioid tapering, the article notes.
Patients who took substantially lower opioid doses did not report higher levels of pain.
The researchers noted that one year after the opioid tapering program was introduced, only a minority of patients had successfully tapered their dosages below the policy threshold.
“The approach used in this study showed progress, but not enough,” lead researcher Dr. Melissa Weimer of Oregon Health & Science University said in a news release.
“We’d rather have a higher success rate. But in some cases we’re dealing with a generation of patients who have been prescribed high-dose opioids for many years.”
“Educational efforts and opioid dose-limitation policies may not be sufficient to decrease opioid misuse, addiction, or opioid-related mortality, but they appear to be one step in the right direction,” the researchers wrote in the journal Substance Abuse.
“Part of the problem with these issues is that the concern is not just opioids,” noted study co-author Daniel Hartung. “Many of the patients who are taking long-term medications for pain management often have other issues as well, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. They may be taking medications for those conditions, and sometimes these combinations can be dangerous.”