Communications & Media

Volunteers needed for long term look at pain medication effects

A new University of Tasmania study is seeking volunteers to help understand how the use of strong opioids for chronic pain may affect mental functioning – or ‘cognition.’

Psychology PhD student Jane Akhurst, a project investigator, said the study is looking at the effects of long-term use of opioids (e.g., oxycodone) on factors such as memory, concentration and driving.

“A lot of people are prescribed opioids when they have chronic pain, and while there has been a great deal of attention on the potential for misuse and side effects, we don’t know as much about what happens in terms of cognition,” Ms Akhurst said.

Ms Akhurst said the cognitive effects of long-term opioid use for chronic pain was a concern raised by those prescribed opioids, as this may make it more difficult to engage in everyday activities.

“The issue can be complicated: pain can cause problems with cognition, so we are keen to see what happens when people are prescribed opioids - does medication bring a range of further cognitive effects, or might it help improve mental functioning by reducing pain?”

The study is particularly focused on studying people in a ‘real life’ framework over a year – to identify long term effects.

Around 40 volunteers are needed for the study, aged between 18 and 65.

Volunteers need to have started taking opioids for chronic pain in the past three years.

The study involves attending four, 60 minute laboratory sessions over the course of 12 months.

In each session, participants will be asked about medications and pain level, and will complete paper and computer based cognitive tasks.

All sessions will take place at the Sandy Bay campus in Hobart and participants will be reimbursed $160 for their time.

“We hope the results will serve as a useful tool for doctors in discussions with patients, to establish from the outset what can happen over time when using opioids for chronic pain,” Ms Akhurst sad.

Published on: 12 Oct 2018 2:35pm