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Using opioids in general practice for chronic non-cancer pain: an overview of current evidence

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Chronic non-cancer pain is highly prevalent in our communities and its optimal management is crucial to the health and wellbeing of the community.1 Without good control of chronic pain, our community faces a level of avoidable suffering that cannot be justified, with costs of uncontrolled chronic pain borne across society by individuals, health services and businesses.2,3 At both the level of the individual patient and the community, there needs to be focus on using the best available evidence to assess and manage this overwhelming problem. Part of the appropriate treatment for many people will include opioid analgesics for acute pain at least for days to weeks.4 Simultaneously there is increasing pressure to ensure that prescribing of opioid analgesics is minimised to reduce the risk of dependence and illicit diversion. This is a difficult balance to strike, even with initiatives such as prescription drug monitoring programs.5

This article provides a brief overview of the current evidence to guide opioid use for chronic non-cancer pain in general practice.

Chronic pain: definitions and epidemiology

The International Association for the Study of Pain defines chronic pain as that which has persisted beyond normal tissue healing time; by…