Prescription medication dependence - resources for health providers

The number of pharmaceutical opioid-related deaths in Australia now exceeds deaths from heroin use by a significant margin (abc.net.au, May 2018).

As medical and allied health providers, your patients look to you as key influencers in their pain management. The strategies you equip your patients with for dealing with pain should always be clinically appropriate and tailored to their specific needs.

Appropriate and evidence based strategies should be used to support the prescribing of opioids.

Your treatment should seek to maximise the health and social functioning of the patient while minimising risks.

Opioids are generally regarded by clinical practice guidelines as a short-term therapeutic option. Long-term use should be uncommon, made with caution and based on consideration of the risks.

To minimise risks, opioids should be prescribed at the lowest effective dose for the shortest clinical timeframe (Key Principles for appropriate opioid prescribing in general practice; Prescribing drugs of dependence in general practice part C2).


Resources for health providers

Second Opinion Pharmacist Services

Second Opinion Pharmacist Services provide fast access to SA based clinical pharmacy experts to support GPs and their patients with work related injuries. The service is voluntary, with no obligation to participate, and can be provided for undetermined and accepted work injury claims.

Second Opinion Pharmacy Services provides treating GPs with clinical advice and support about (but not limited to):

  • dosage
  • medication alternatives
  • interactions between medicines and contraindications
  • side-effects, including preventative and management strategies
  • management strategies to avoid dependence and complications

To access or refer patients to Second Opinion Pharmacist Services, please contact the Drug and Therapeutics Information Service (DATIS) on (08) 7425 8444, or email health.DATIS@sa.gov.au. You may also complete the Second Opinion Pharmacist Services referral form  (PDF, 83 KB) to refer patients..


Second Opinion Medicine Services

Second Opinion Medicine Services are a clinical support tool that provides treating GPs and their patients with quick access to a second opinion from leading South Australian medical specialists on:

  • diagnosis
  • prognosis
  • treatment planning
  • approaches for supporting recovery and improving a patient’s functional abilities.

ReturnToWorkSA's Medical Advisor

ReturnToWorkSA's Medical Advisor can provide you with face-to-face clinical support and guidance on all aspects of treating patients with a work injury, including:

  • strategies to actively manage patients with complex injuries
  • doctor to doctor clinical support and problem solving
  • how to prescribe an active recovery in patients with a work injury.

If you would like to arrange a visit to your practice, please contact Scheme Support on 8238 5757, or email providers@rtwsa.com with your name and the details of your enquiry.


Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service (DACAS)

DACAS is a 24-hour telephone service for general practitioners, hospital based medical practitioners, nurses and pharmacists seeking advice in managing people with drug and alcohol problems. Call 7087 1742.


Opioids, pain and deprescribing