Twenty years ago, evidence showed that opiates were effective in any pain. Based on this evidence, many people were started on these drugs in good faith. However, this evidence has now been debunked. It is now abundantly clear that these drugs do not benefit chronic or persistent pain. Conversely, there is a better appreciation of the risks, including dependence and opioid-related mortality, which has sadly been increasing.

As a practice, we have to ensure that steps are taken to reduce the prescribing of opiates. We know some patients have been taking these medications for several years. We must review these patients and discuss slowly weaning off their opiate medication. This will be done with their usual doctor or our in-house pharmacist.

We appreciate that for a patient who has been taking opioids for several years, there may be a sense that they won’t be able to cope without them. Evidence does show that we can reduce withdrawal symptoms by tapering the dose of the opiate slowly. The most common opiate prescribed in primary care is Codeine. This is primarily given as co-codamol (this is codeine prescribed with paracetamol).

Please speak to your usual doctor or our pharmacist if you have any concerns.