Use of common opioid painkillers such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone has more than quadrupled in Australia over the past decade and doubled worldwide over the same period, an analysis of worldwide use reports.
Published in The Lancet the report from the International Narcotics Control Board calculated the daily use of opioid painkillers globally over the period 2001 to 2013 and compared the data against the prevalence of health conditions requiring pain relief.
Most of the worldwide increase occurred in western regions including North America, Australia and New Zealand, the analysis showed.
This increase was most likely down to long-term prescribing for non-cancer pain, said the authors that included Richard Mattick from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.
Because there was no objective measure for assessing adequate levels of opioid consumption it was difficult to ascertain whether the extent of use was excessive, appropriate, or lower than was needed, they noted.
The figures showed a very different picture in the majority of poorer and less developed nations including Central America and the Caribbean, Africa, parts of Asia and Eastern Europe.
These countries had little or no-access to opioid pain relief and there had been no significant increase in use in these regions over the 10 years.
“Attention should be paid to the impediments faced by countries, and international and national policies and action should support an agenda for change within the next decade,” they concluded.