New Canadian guideline provides advice to physicians to avoid overprescribing of opioids

Opioid guideline

The updated guideline was funded by the Government of Canada, as part of the response to the opioid crisis

Opioid overdoses are claiming the lives of thousands of Canadians of all ages, and from all walks of life. The impact of the opioid crisis continues to be devastating to individuals, families and communities. Inappropriate prescribing of opioids has lead to some becoming dependent upon them and then turning to street drugs. Drug addiction is an illness that requires care and compassion like any other health condition.

To help address problematic prescription drug use, Health Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research provided McMaster University with $618,248 in funding to update the Canadian Guideline for Safe and Effective Use of Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain and associated training tools for prescribers.

The updated guideline, released today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, recommends that patients with chronic non cancer pain first try non-opioid options to manage pain before considering a trial of opioid therapy. The guideline also offers specific recommendations for tapering opioids for patients on high doses, if that is something a prescriber chooses to do collaboratively with his or her patient. As with all medications, prescribers will continue to assess the individual needs of their patients on a case-by-case basis, as part of the practice of medicine.

The Government of Canada is committed to implementing a comprehensive, collaborative, compassionate and evidence-based response to Canada’s opioid crisis. For more information on what the Government of Canada is doing to combat the opioid crisis, please visit


“The opioid epidemic has serious consequences for families and communities across Canada. We are committed to working with our partners to ensure a comprehensive response to this public health crisis, including supporting physicians in improving prescribing practices. I applaud the work that went into updating the prescription opioid guideline, and I urge healthcare professionals to apply the recommendations when prescribing these types of medications.”

The Honourable Jane Philpott – Minister of Health

Quick Facts

  • The McMaster project is one of several projects funded by Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) that look at ways to help prevent and treat problematic substance use in Canada.
  • The updated guideline was produced through collaboration with provincial and territorial medical regulatory authorities across Canada.

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