Opioid Prescribing in an Opioid Crisis: What Basic Skills Should an Oncologist Have Regarding Opioid Therapy?

  • Joseph Arthur
  • Akhila ReddyEmail author
Palliative and Supportive Care (MP Davis, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Palliative and Supportive Care

Opinion statement

Although clinical evidence supports the use of opioids for cancer-related pain, doing so amidst the current opioid crisis remains a challenge. A proportion of opioid-related deaths in the USA are attributable to prescription opioids, which implicates health care providers as one of the major contributors. It is therefore even more important now for all clinicians to follow safe and effective opioid prescribing practices. Oncologists are often in the frontline of cancer pain management. They are encouraged to use validated tools to screen all patients receiving opioids for high risk behaviors. Those identified as high risk for potential abuse of opioids should be monitored closely. When aberrant behavior is detected, the clinician will need to openly discuss the issue and its possible implications. Oncologists may then implement measures such as limiting the dose and quantity of opioids prescribed, shortening interval between follow-ups for refills to allow for increased monitoring, setting boundaries/limitations, weaning off opioid analgesics, or/and referring to a pain or palliative medicine or drug addiction expert for co-management when necessary. These efforts may aid oncologists in safely managing cancer pain in the environment of national opioid crisis.


Opioid crisis Pain Aberrant 


Compliance With Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Joseph Arthur and Akhila Reddy declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

References and Recommended Reading

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Palliative, Rehabilitation, & Integrative MedicineThe University of Texas MD Anderson CancerHoustonUSA

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