The associated risks, particularly that of long term use, are underestimated, and appropriate measures are needed
Before 1990, opioids were primarily used to treat severe acute and cancer pain. In the subsequent 30 years, opioids have been increasingly used for treating chronic non‐malignant pain; prescribing has increased exponentially in the developed world, particularly in the United States, but also in Canada and Australia.1 Regrettably, this has not only resulted in poor outcomes for patients living with chronic pain; the analgesic efficacy of opioids for this indication are limited, and they do not improve, and often reduce, function and quality of life.2 Further, diversion of prescribed opioids and their misuse have risen in parallel with increased prescribing, leading to higher numbers of overdoses deaths. In Australia, about 1100 people died following opioid overdoses during 2018, and 75% of cases involved prescription opioids (similar to the number of deaths from car accidents in that year).3
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