Attend our first ever online President’s lecture

Professor Rob Poole will be Wendy’s final guest in her series of President’s lectures for members.

Prof Poole will be giving a talk called ‘Psychiatrists and Prescribed Opioids’, in the first ever President’s lecture which will be broadcast live online at 4pm on Friday 5 June.

Although the fact it is being provided as a webinar is due to the pandemic (it was originally due to take place in Swansea), it is fitting that it will be available to watch around the world.

During Wendy’s tenure the College has taken the President’s lectures around the UK – where previously they were always held in London – and published recordings of lectures on the College website.

Wendy said: “As President of the College, I’m delighted to announce our first President’s Prestigious Lecture as a webinar. ‘Psychiatrists and prescribed opioids’ given by Professor Rob Poole is one of those talks you don’t want to miss. 

“It’s been important to me that we make the President’s lectures available to as many members as possible. Even if you are not available to watch the talk live, please do sign up as you can watch the recording later.”

Further information about the speaker and the talk are below.

Click on the ‘Book’ button to register your interest and complete the one minute form – you will be sent a link to the webinar on the day of the talk.

Professor Rob Poole is Professor of Social Psychiatry at Bangor University, where he co-directs the Centre for Mental Health and Society with Professor Peter Huxley.

He is Honorary Consultant in Liaison Psychiatry at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and with Wrexham Pain Management Team.

After training in London and Oxford, he worked as an NHS community psychiatrist in Liverpool and in North Wales for 21 years. He became a full-time academic psychiatrist in 2009.

His clinical and research interests centre on the social and economic determinants of mental health. His main current research activities concern dysfunctional high-dose opioid use in people with chronic pain, and self-harm in South Asia.

He has written extensively, including scientific papers, book chapters, textbooks and a blog. He was first author of Clinical Skills in Psychiatric Treatment (2008), ‘Mental Health and Poverty’ (2014) and Psychiatric Interviewing and Assessment (1st Ed 2006, 2nd Ed 2017), all of which were published by Cambridge University Press.

He is presently preparing a book on suicide prevention for RCPsych Publications with Professor Murad Khan, Aga Khan University, Karachi, and Professor Catherine Robinson, University of Manchester, UK.

He received the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

In the USA, there has been much public concern over ‘the opioid crisis’, which has been largely understood in terms of an iatrogenic epidemic of drug misuse.

Although the UK has not experienced anything similar, opioid prescriptions have increased markedly in the last twenty years.

The increase appears to have plateaued, but there is no sign of the amount of opioids prescribed dropping from the current high level. Furthermore, the proportion of strong opioids prescribed has increased.

This increase in prescriptions has had some impact amongst drug misusers, but the wide spread use of potent opioids for chronic non-cancer pain also has intrinsic problems for patients who show no addiction behaviours.

Whilst these drugs do have an important role in pain management, there is growing evidence that they are most effective for acute pain and much less effective when used continuously for long periods.

They carry a heavy burden of side effects, including a marked impact on patients’ cognition and mood, and thus on their mental health. There is also evidence that opioid induced hyperalgesia may be common with long-term high-dose regime. Hence, in some cases, opioids may make chronic pain worse rather than better. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to reduce or stop these drugs.

Opioids have benefits too, and I would not wish to advocate a return to the situation in hospitals when I was a medical student, whereby opioids were commonly and needlessly withheld from patients who were suffering intolerable acute pain.

In this lecture, I will explore the complex issues involved by reference to a programme of research that has been conducted over the past few years at Bangor University’s Centre for Mental Health and Society. I will conclude by drawing out the implications of our findings for British psychiatrists.

This will be followed by a live Q&A session hosted by Wendy. Questions can be asked live or emailed to us in advance.

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