How many of you had a flu this winter? Anyone took antibiotics for that? But some people can’t take them because they are allergic. Now, imagine someone suffering from pain, being prescribed opioids and having a negative reaction to them. What if this reaction was addiction to opioids? What if we could measure the risk for addiction the same way we can measure allergy to antibiotics? This article describes why opioid addiction is not an allergy to opioids and that we should not think about it that way, nor try to measure it using opioid risk tools.
We wanted to find out whether we can tell which adult will go into opioid addiction when prescribed opioids for pain. Why? Prescription opioid addiction can have devastating consequences but it is not clear how to identify patients with pain among whom prescription opioids can be safely prescribed.
The Journal of the American Medical Association – JAMA Network Open – commissioned us to do a very special kind of review that is called Diagnostic Accuracy Review. For this study, we chose only the best studies. To illustrate diagnostic performance, data from higher quality studies were extracted and used to calculate likelihood ratios (LR). What are likelihood ratios? Likelihood Ratios bigger than 1 increase the probability of a disease. Likelihood ratio of 1 equals roughly zero increase. Likelihood of 2 equals just about 15% increase.
Opioid Risk Tools
The opioid risk screening tools that are in widespread use are based on low quality studies and are not helpful in identifying patients at higher risk. Among them, the pain medication questionnaire had likelihood ratio of 2.6 (slight increase in likelihood, about 15%). Some risk factors were found in a single high quality study:
A history of opioid or non-opioid use disorder, a mental health diagnosis and concomitant prescription of certain psychiatric medications may increase the risk of prescription opioid addiction.
However, only the absence of a mood disorder appeared useful for identifying lower risk patients (and assessment tools incorporating combinations of patient characteristics and risk factors were not useful).
There are few valid ways to identify patients who can be safely prescribed opioid analgesics. Given the lack of good tools and the mounting evidence that opioids are not effective for chronic pain, such as the recent JAMA trial called Space, prescribers should be aware of tools’ limitations when prescribing opioids for pain. Opioid addiction is not an allergic reaction. Don’t try to measure risk for it and whether it’s safe to prescribe. De-implement opioid risk tools!
|Reference: Klimas, J., Gorfinkel, L., Fairbairn, N., Amato, L., Ahamad, K., Nolan, S., Simel, D., Wood, E. (2019) Strategies to identify patient risks of prescription opioid addiction when initiating opioids for pain: A Systematic review. JAMA Network Open. 2(5):e193365. Doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.3365|
If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also wish reading the article about diagnosing opioid use disorder link here
Better medical education is one solution to the opioid overdose crisis, but our new study suggests that few students have direct experience of overdose management although many have been exposed to patients using opioids.
Every year, more people die in Ireland due to opioid overdoses than in car accidents. Over 200 overdose deaths occur annually in Ireland. Naloxone is an effective treatment; lay people can use it. We surveyed 243 undergraduate medical students doing their final professional completion module before graduating from University College Dublin. This survey showed that medical students commonly encounter patients with opioid use disorders and want more naloxone training in the medical school.
Overdose prevention and management, including naloxone provision, should be a priority for health education.
A total of 197 (82.1%) completed the survey. Just under half were male, and most were aged under 25 (63.3%) and of Irish nationality (76.7%). The students felt moderately prepared to recognise opioid use disorder, but felt less prepared to manage other aspects of opioid use disorder care. Most had taken a history from a patient with an opioid use disorder (82.8%), and a third had witnessed at least one opioid overdose. Although 10.3% had seen naloxone administered, most had never administered naloxone themselves (98.5%). Half supported wider naloxone availability; this was lower than support rates among GPs (63.6%) and GP trainees (66.1%).
Over half of the medical students supported wider naloxone availability and its lay distribution to address the growing overdose problem in Ireland.
Most students had taken a history from a patient with an opioid use disorder and a third had witnessed at least one opioid overdose.
Few students had direct experience of overdose management although many met patients using opioids.
High level of student exposure to patients using opiates suggests we have an opportunity to increase addiction content in medical curricula.
Medical school offers limited addiction medicine education. Medical graduates may not be adequately prepared to diagnose and manage opioid use disorders and emergency drug overdoses.
Tobin, H., Klimas, J., Barry, T., Egan, M., Bury, G. (2017, In Press) Opiate Use Disorders and Overdose: Medical Students’ Experiences, Satisfaction with Learning and Attitudes toward Community Naloxone Provision. Addictive Behaviors.
What is the state of the art in addiction research? How do we measure recovery? These, and other questions dominated presentations on systematic reviews of literature at the 2nd European conference on addictive behaviours and dependencies on October 24-26th, 2017, in Lisbon.
This post outlines the many presentations.
Systematic reviews at Lisbon 2017:
– Which individual, social and environmental influences shape different pathways of amphetamine type stimulant use over the life course? A systematic review and thematic synthesis of the qualitative literature. Amy O´Donnell and Michelle Addison, United Kingdom
– Determining the efficacy of an intervention to reduce IPV perpetration by men who misuse substances: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Gail Gilchrist, United Kingdom
– Drug use and infectious diseases: reviewing the evidence; Sarah Larney, Australia
Paper session 16
− Injecting and sexual risk-taking amongst people who inject drugs: a global review. Amy Peacock, Australia
− Needle syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy for prevention HCV transmission among people who inject drugs: Cochrane systematic review. Matthew Hickman, United Kingdom
− Recent incarceration and risk of hepatitis C and HIV transmission amongst people who inject drugs: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Jack Stone, United Kingdom
− A systematic review and meta-analysis of psychosocial interventions to reduce drug and sexual blood borne virus risk behaviours among people who inject drugs. Gail Gilchrist, United Kingdom
− HIV prevention, treatment and care for people who inject drugs: a systematic review of coverage of interventions. Sarah Larney, Australia
– Mortality risk during and after opioid substitution treatment: systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Marica Ferri, EMCDDA
– What is the base for evidence-based treatment of opioid dependence? A systematic review of outcomes from longitudinal observational studies. Lucas Wiessing, EMCDDA
– Health outcomes for clients of needle and syringe programs in prisons: a systematic review. Heino Stöver, Germany
− Worldwide drug use decriminalization practices: a scoping review. Marta Pinto, Portugal
− Review of the effectiveness of treatment alternatives to incarceration for drug-involved persons. Roger Peters, United States
− Factors related to binge drinking in adolescence: integrative literature review. Tereza Barroso, Portugal
Systematic reviews posters at Lisbon 2017:
October 24th: 13:15 – 14:15 POSTER SESSIONS:
– Alcohol use disorders identification test (audit) and mortality risk in US Veterans and international population: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sören Kuitunen-Paul, Germany
– Contingency management for drug use in treatment for opiate addiction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Tom Ainscogh, United Kingdom
24th: 14:30 – 16:00 POSTER SESSIONS:
– A systematic review of internet addiction prevention interventions. Roman Gabrhelík, Czech Republic
October 25th: 11:00 – 12:30 POSTER SESSIONS:
– Prevalence and psychosocial predictors of performance enhancing substances use in physical activity settings: a systematic review. Ana Tavares, Portugal
October 25th: 14:30 – 16:00 POSTER SESSIONS:
– What works in the treatment of women with alcohol-use problems? Systematic review of evidence-based studies. Eva Hoch, Germany
Thank you all presenters for your reviews and conference presentations.
Overdose is the most common cause of deaths among heroin users. Our previous research has shown that the ambulances in Dublin see one overdose every day*. Naloxone is a life-saving nasal spray for reversing heroin overdose. It has no addictive properties, no potential for abuse and a low cost. In Ireland, it is currently used by ambulance and emergency care services as an injection into muscle, into the bone or under the skin.
Irish family doctors treat many heroin users users who are in the methadone treatment. This makes family doctors ideal to use naloxone themselves or to show patients how to use it. The new Clinical Practice Guideline of the Pre-hospital Emergency Council of Ireland advises that trained professionals can use intranasal naloxone.
Today, we ran a pilot workshop with doctors in training. It was designed to help trainees identify and manage opioid overdose with naloxone spray. The trainees listened to a short presentation, watched a video clip about how to use naloxone (Figure 1), and tried it themselves. However, they did not get the spray to take home with them.
|Figure 1 Jano simulating overdose in a pilot educational video for general practice trainees|
23 young doctors from one postgraduate training scheme in Ireland participated in an hour long lunchtime workshop. We have asked them to self-assess their own knowledge of and attitudes towards naloxone using the validated Opioid Overdose Knowledge (OOKS) and Attitudes (OOAS) Scales. They did the scales before and after the workshop. Another questionnaire measured the acceptability and satisfaction with workshop. The doctors gave us valuable feedback on the session which will be analysed and published in an academic paper.
The take home message from today is that adequate training is essential for distribution of naloxone through Family Practitioners. In future studies, the knowledge from this pilot may be used to inform a train-the-trainer model. Healthcare professionals and other front-line service providers may be trained to instruct heroin users and their families in overdose prevention and naloxone use. Today’s workshop was timed perfectly, because the deaths due to overdose in the country are peaking.
*Study by: Klimas, J., O’Reilly, M., Egan, M., Tobin, H., Bury, G. (2014) Urban Overdose Hotspots: A 12-Month Prospective Study in Dublin Ambulance Services. American Journal of Emergency Medicine (Online July 30) doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2014.07.017