Many patients with “advanced cancer and other debilitating conditions” aren’t being given strong enough pain relief, BBC News has reported. This is thought to be due to doctors being reluctant to prescribe strong opioids, such as morphine, partly as a result of patients’ concerns over addiction. Patients may also wrongly assume that they are nearer the end of their life, as there is a misconception that opioids are only given during the final stages of terminal disease.
The news is based on new medical guidelines on the safe and effective prescribing of strong pain-relieving drugs for people living with and dying from a terminal condition (palliative care). The guidelines, issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), are designed to help medical staff prescribe doses that improve both pain levels and quality of life. They also address side effects such as drowsiness and misconceptions about becoming addicted to opioid medication.