Simple strategies can reduce harms from misuse of pharmaceutical opioids
Sustained-release opioid drugs have been used increasingly over the past two decades to treat all types of chronic pain, including chronic non-cancer pain.1 Rates of prescribing have increased in developed countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States since the beginning of the 21st century.2-4 In the US, aggressive marketing of sustained-release formulations of oxycodone to primary care physicians and directly to patients between 1996 and 20075,6 resulted in a 10-fold increase in their per-capita use, and an alarming increase in the number of deaths from overdose with prescription opioids. In 2007, the number of deaths from oxycodone and other pharmaceutical opioids (11 499) outnumbered overdose deaths from illicit heroin and cocaine combined (around 8000).7
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