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An international group of experts have published guidance on how to prevent opioid-related harm in adult surgical patients.

Packets of medication

The consensus statement, which includes input from anaesthetists, surgeons and other healthcare professionals, was published in Anaesthesia, a journal of the Association of Anaesthetists. One of the co-authors is Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience's Dr Jane Quinlan, an expert on pain medicine and addiction.

The opioid crisis, in which addiction and harm are related to pain-relieving opioid drugs, has been concentrated in the USA, but is now affecting most Western nations and increasingly, developing countries also. In some cases, this addiction and subsequent harm begins when the patient is given these drugs for pain relief after surgery.

The authors of the paper say: 'Opioids are effective medicines that form an integral component of balanced multimodal painkilling strategies for the management of acute pain in post-operative patients. However, over the past decade it has been increasingly appreciated that, in efforts to improve pain relief after surgery, doctors prescribing these drugs to help pain relief during and after surgery have unwittingly contributed to persistent post-operative opioid use, abuse and harm in some patients. In addition to the social and economic costs of opioid misuse, there are personal costs, with many people dying from opioid overdose, or in accidents caused, for example, by driving under the influence of opioids.'

The full story is available on the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences website