Pain Management & Drug Treatment

When it comes to important issues for people who are opioid dependent and/or on opioid pharmacotherapies (such as methadone and bupe) the issue of pain management is one of the biggest priorities – some would say ‘it tops the list’! Lack of access to suitable and adequate medications to manage both acute and chronic pain is a constant theme in AIVL’s own surveys and focus groups with drug users and, in key drug & alcohol research studies. This is hardly surprising because it is now well-documented that people who are opioid dependent and/or on opioid pharmacotherapies experience significant levels of stigma, discrimination and poor treatment at the hands of the health system. Entrenched negative stereotypes and prejudices against people who use illicit drugs can, and often do get in the way of people accessing critical health services especially pain management. Research has shown that people with a long term history of opioid use are not only more sensitive to pain but are likely to require significantly higher levels of pain relief to achieve a comparable level of pain management as people who are opioid-naïve. Despite this evidence, it is recognised that people on opioid pharmacotherapies and those with a known history of drug dependency are routinely denied access to pain management and accused of ‘drug seeking behaviour’. Sadly, in Australia and internationally there are documented cases in the media and through the courts of people being left to live with painful and serious health conditions and/or to die in agony because they were deemed to be “drug seeking junkies”.

Australia has an ageing opioid dependent population and increasing levels of pharmaceutical opioid use. In this context, access to pain management for opioid dependent people is only going to grow as an issue and for this reason AIVL has compiled this section to showcase both our own work in this area (on behalf of drug users) and reports, research, media articles and other information we think visitors to our site might find informative. Investigate and as always, let us know what you think…