The Medicines Optimisation Group East Anglia has developed an online toolkit to support GPs in tackling chronic opioid use in patients with non-cancer pain.
The toolkit outlines seven areas of best practice on reducing chronic opioid use based on international research evidence, guidance from health organisations and individual practitioners.
It comes after figures for England and Wales revealed an increase in opioid prescriptions of more than 60 per cent over the last decade from 14 million in 2008 to 23 million last year.
Lead researcher, Dr Debi Bhattacharya from the University of East Anglia, said GPs and other health professionals need to urgently, proactively work with patients prescribed long-term opioids for non-cancer pain to taper their doses.
"But if GPs are expected to initiate discussions about tapering or stopping opioids, they must be equipped with training to manage the psychological challenges experienced by patients when trying to reduce their opioid use," Dr Bhattacharya said. "Without this training, prescribers are reticent to open ‘a can of worms' that they know they don't have the skills to manage."
"For opioid tapering interventions to be effective, GPs need training in giving their patients the skills to manage any withdrawal effects," she said.
"There needs to be a clear expectation that opioid de-prescribing is the responsibility of the prescriber,” she added. "Incentives may help GPs and other health professionals to prioritise reducing the amount of opioids being prescribed to patients, particularly among those who have been taking them long-term."
The toolkit is available here.