Patients with non-cancer pain are increasingly prescribed high dose opioid medications. This has raised concerns about the efficacy of such treatment and the long-term risks to patients.

This project will compare the effectiveness of two methods of achieving abstinence from prescribed opioids, or maintenance at a moderate dose, six months after completion of treatment. The first method will involve infusions of low doses of ketamine (an anaesthetic drug) under the skin over five days in hospital while the patients’ opioid medications are stopped. The second method will involve slowly tapering high dose opioids in outpatient clinics, and using other medications to help manage pain and withdrawal symptoms.

The project will also examine the relative costs of each approach. Participants in the study will be recruited from patients referred from pain clinics at Port Kembla and Shoalhaven District Hospitals, and Aboriginal Health Centres. The TRG Scheme funding will assist with data collection, entry, analysis and ethics.

Funding body

NSW Health 

Scheme name

Translational Research Grants Scheme

Years funded

2017 – 2018

Lead institution

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District

Project leaders