Safety and Use of Opioids

A summary of ODPRN research on prescription opioid use in Ontario

Safety and Use of Opioids

Opioids are a group of prescription drugs used to treat pain conditions; however the efficacy and safety of their use in treating chronic non-cancer pain has been widely questioned due to a lack of long-term studies, the availability of various opioid types and potencies on the market, and uncertainty on appropriate dosing. Given that Canada and the United States have the highest per capita consumption of opioids worldwide, this area required further exploration.

From 2008 – 2015, the ODPRN conducted several population-based studies to investigate the use of opioids in Ontario. The key objective of these studies was to provide evidence to inform discussion regarding the safe and appropriate use of opioids.

This report summarizes these findings as well as policy and practice implications into four key themes of our research:

1. Overall trends in opioid use are increasing in Ontario, particularly at doses that exceed guideline recommendations

2. Safety of opioid use, particularly at high doses, is related to serious adverse events, including risk of overdose death and road trauma

3. Geographic variation in opioid prescribing, use and safety is apparent and should be considered when designing public health and policy initiatives

4. The impact of policy and education interventions is varied and will need to involve a combination of regulatory/legislative changes, as well as patient and clinician education to respond to this ever-shifting prescribing environment

View a copy of the ODPRN’s new public report:

PDF  Safety and Use of Opioids: A summary of ODPRN research on prescription opioid use in Ontario

For more information:

  • View our Publications section for additional research on opioids in Ontario including many of the references listed in this report
  • Click through our Interactive Map on opioid prescribing and opioid-related hospital visits in Ontario


Please note that this report is NOT COMPLETE and is still in progress. Click below if you would like to continue.