Study finds tapering, clinic policies can reduce opioid use

(UPDATE: Coverage on Sen. Jeff Merkley’s website too.)

 

Medical Press and Partnership For Drug-Free Kids, and other websites are reporting on a study on opioid addiction in which CODA Medical Director Melissa Weimer and other researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University “showed that medical provider training, new clinic policies and efforts to ‘taper’ opioid use for pain treatment could significantly reduce the level of opioid medication that patients used—a limited but positive step for a nation enmeshed in opioid use, abuse and overdose deaths.”  The study was published in the journal, Substance Abuse. 

From the Oregon State University coverage:

“This research was done with 514 patients who had been prescribed long-term, chronic opioid therapy. In one group of patients prescribed high-dose opioids, it showed that proactive steps and opioid dosing policies helped 37 percent of the patients to taper their doses to what’s considered a safer level, 120 milligrams per day of ‘morphine equivalent.’ In many cases dosages were reduced by almost half – but the research also found that women had less success with the tapering approach.

‘The approach used in this study showed progress, but not enough,’ said Dr. Melissa Weimer. ‘…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.’ ”

The problem that researchers are considering has its roots in the 1980s and 90s when opioid pain medications were promoted and heavily prescribed  “to better manage pain, especially for chronic, non-cancer pain, from such health issues as neuropathy or lower back problems. At the time, some experts even advised that opioid medications were neither harmful nor addictive,” says the OSU site. As Weimer and others continue to state in media reports, lectures and articles — this is now an epidemic.

“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.