Vol. 18, ed. 3

October 2021

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Dear colleagues,

Three pieces of new research dovetail nicely this month to remind us that, alongside their desired outcomes, programs and treatments can also sometimes have unintended consequences for individuals.

Here in Australia, a 10-member team including Penington Institute board member Nick Lintzeris interviewed 16 men and 14 women about their experiences with long-acting injectable (or depot) buprenorphine. (You can learn more about this relatively new option in our February issue of The Bulletin.)

The study’s findings shed light on both the positive benefits to recipients – removing the stigma and cost of attending a daily dosing point and freeing up time to spend elsewhere – and in some cases less favourable results, such as the disruption of social and/or practical support relationships with pharmacies/clinics and a reduction in recipients’ control over dosing.

The full report is a thought-provoking and enlightening read.

At the same time, from the US comes analysis of data for the period 2006–15 collected by the National Health Interview Survey.

This piece of work focuses on the influence of optional and mandatory prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) on patients’ time spent either bedridden or off work.

Respondents reported an increase on average of 3.3 days under an optional PDMP and 5.9 days when a must-use PDMP applied after an injury or surgery.
In this case, the researchers concluded that “evidence-based strategies to address pain without opioids in the acute pain population likely need to be more widely disseminated”.

Also in the US, a large-scale study in California has revealed that opioid prescription tapering is not without risk.

In looking at the health of more than 113,000 people prescribed stable, high-dose opioid therapy for at least a year, researchers have found that tapering can be associated with “an elevated risk of both drug overdose and mental health crises, specifcally depression, anxiety and suicide attempts”.

This month in The Bulletin we look at the imperative 
of social licence for NSPs; delve into the dark web as 
a marketplace; examine physical and psychological violence perpetrated both against and by people who
 use drugs; and speak one-on-one with Philippa Jones, national operations manager of the New Zealand Needle Exchange Services Trust, for a trans-Tasman perspective on opportunities and challenges in the NSP sector.

Please share these stories widely across your network, and send us your comments as well as ideas for topics you’d like to see covered in future issues.

John Ryan
CEO, Penington Institute