IASP Council Approves Statement on Appropriate Use of Opioids

Feb 20, 2018

The IASP Council has approved the IASP Position Statement on Opioids to guide scientists, physicians, and government policymakers in the appropriate use of opioid medications. The statement declares, “Opioids are indispensable for the treatment of severe short-lived pain during acute painful events and at the end of life,” such as pain associated with cancer. “Currently, no other oral medication offers immediate and effective relief of severe pain.”

Despite the value of opioids in treating acute and cancer pain, says the document, the use of open-ended and indiscriminate long-term prescribing of opioids in treating chronic pain has led to high rates of prescription opioid abuse, unacceptable death rates, and enormous societal burdens, especially in the United States and Canada.

Consequently, the statement recommends caution when prescribing opioids for chronic pain, focusing instead on strategies that integrate behavioral and physical treatments. At the same time, IASP strongly advocates for access to opioids for the humane treatment of severe acute pain, using reasonable precautions to avoid misuse, diversion, and other adverse outcomes.

In addition, the statement reiterates IASP’s longtime belief that access to pain management is a fundamental human right, noting that the developing world continues to struggle with lack of opioid availability for appropriate indications.

Developed by an 11-member international task force led by Jane Ballantyne of the University of Washington, the statement urges continued research to identify ways to minimize risks of opioid use and to find effective alternatives to treat various types of pain. IASP also urges increased investments in continuous pain education for all types of health-care professionals.