There has been a large increase in the number of prescriptions for opioid drugs in the United Kingdom over the last 20 years or more and the prescribing of opioids in high doses continues to increase. Much opioid prescribing is for chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) despite serious doubts about the long-term effectiveness of opioids for this indication. Clinical experience is that there are increasing numbers of patients who are on high dosages of opioid drugs over sustained periods which provide limited or no pain relief while having significant negative effects on functioning and quality of life. The aim of this article is to bring readers' attention to some clinical observations of the CNCP population with high doses and to describe an intervention to reduce these doses. Many of these patients have no clinical features of addiction; we suggest that those who show little or no substance misuse behaviours are best understood as a distinct clinical population who have different treatment needs. In order to understand and treat these patients, a model is required which, rather than seeing the problem as lying solely with the patient, focuses on the interaction between the individual and his or her environment and seeks a change in what the patient does every day, rather than a simple, and largely unattainable, goal of symptom elimination. The clinician authors worked together to develop an intervention based upon approaches taken from both pain management and psychiatric practice. A detailed description of this rapid opioid reduction intervention (RORI) is provided along with some preliminary outcome data.
Keywords: Opioids; chronic pain; drug reduction; methadone; pain management; psychosocial intervention.
© The British Pain Society 2020.