Calgary

University and physicians team up to cut back on patient opioid use

A new online course for Alberta physicians aims to reduce opioid use among patients. The University of Calgary, along with partners, created a course to train family doctors to do their part in opioid reduction.

New course from University of Calgary will train doctors to safely reduce prescriptions

This file photo shows prescription opioid painkiller OxyNEO at a Toronto pharmacy in 2017. (Hyungwon Kang/REUTERS)

A new course hopes to cut back on opioid use by training family physicians and other specialists to do their part in reducing patients' reliance on the drugs.

The training, developed by the University of Calgary in conjunction with Alberta Health Services and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, will teach doctors both how to safely prescribe opioids and how to taper existing patients off the drugs.

Called "Wise Prescribing and De-prescribing: Opioid Skills for the Frontline Clinician," the course is designed for family doctors but is open to any interested physicians and/or specialists.

Dr. Kelly Burak is associate dean of continuing medical education and professional development at the University of Calgary. (Riley Brandt/University of Calgary)

"I'm really excited about the launch of the course. It's something we worked very hard on, we had it reviewed externally," said Dr. Kelly Burak, associate dean of continuing medical education and professional development at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine.

The course was reviewed externally by pain specialists in British Columbia and Nova Scotia before it launched. 

"They think it's a really good product and we're very excited to get it in the hands of family physicians," said Burak.

The course is primarily delivered online through podcasts, with video clips featuring physician interviews and patient testimonials. However, physicians are required to attend two in-person workshops, taken three months apart.  

"It's a really impactful way of delivering adult education that's going to hopefully lead to entrenched skills in these providers," said Burak.

Dr. Lori Montgomery is the medical leader of Alberta Health Services' Calgary Pain Program. (Riley Brandt/University of Calgary)

Medical officials with the Calgary Chronic Pain Program said a course dealing with reducing or tapering off opioids is something family doctors have been requesting for a long time.

"We spend a lot of time teaching physicians how to start medications and we don't actually spend enough time to teach them how to stop," said Dr. Lori Montgomery, medical lead for the Chronic Pain Program with Alberta Health Services.

"Doctors struggle with opioid tapering on a daily basis," added Montgomery, who also said it's important that doctors know how to stop an opioid when they decide to start that opioid.

The training is not mandatory, and physicians can complete it at their own pace.

About the Author

Livia Manywounds is a reporter with the CBC in Calgary, a rodeo competitor and a proud member of the Tsuut’ina First Nation.