A common practice among doctors is to prescribe opiates and similar prescription painkillers to help patients deal with chronic pain. However, this causes many people to become dependent on opiates and even develop addictions. They may resort to “doctor shopping” or stealing medications from friends and loved ones. In order to combat this, the health officials are advising doctors against prescribing opiates for chronic pain.
New Protocols for Prescribing Opiates for Chronic Pain
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines this past Tuesday that discourages doctors from prescribing opiates for chronic pain, which has been a common practice in today’s medical community. The CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, says “For the vast majority of patients, the known serious and all-too-often-fatal risks far outweigh the unproven and transient benefits,” and virtually all of the opioid painkillers doctors are prescribing “are just as addictive as heroin”.
Frieden added that the CDC doesn’t “know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently,” and that private insurers, state agencies, and other groups may look at these new guidelines to set their own rules. Some experts expect that despite there being no new regulations on prescribing opioids for pain, the CDC’s warning should suffice and could have an immediate impact on how doctors prescribe these drugs to patients. These new guidelines serve as part of a federal response to the ongoing opiate epidemic in what health officials and citizens alike, consider to be a “doctor-driven” crisis.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell praised the new measure, for she has seen the devastation caused by painkillers in her native state, West Virginia, which continues to lead the country in overdose deaths and prescription drug addiction. She states that combating this epidemic “is a national priority”.
Statistics Behind the New Guidelines
Prior to publishing these new guidelines, the CDC conducted an exhaustive review on the practicality of using opiates for chronic pain by consulting with hundreds of advocacy groups, government agencies and other leading experts in the field. Their analysis found that there was “insufficient evidence to determine long-term benefits.” Some studies even showed that long-term use of opiates actually made patient’s pain even worse and found that roughly 26 percent of chronic pain patients using painkillers long-term became addicted to them.
The American Medical Association, representing 200,000 doctors across the U.S., said that it was “largely supportive” of these guidelines but will remain alert of any ““possible unintended consequences.” The CDC urges doctors to recommend other treatments than painkillers, such as less potent medications, exercise programs, and behavioral therapy etc. If doctors do choose to prescribe painkillers, they should prescribe the lowest possible dose and closely monitor patients for symptoms of abuse. The guidelines also recommends that three days worth of painkillers should suffice as an effective means of short-term acute pain management.
Preventing Overdose and Finding Treatment
The CDC’s guidelines noted that rise in sales of powerful painkillers, directly parallel that of the increase in deaths related to prescription painkillers. Since 1999, just three years after the debut of OxyContin, the total number of drug overdose deaths has quadrupled, along with the number of prescriptions written for painkillers. Prescription painkillers account for 40 percent of all drug overdose deaths and currently kill more Americans than any other illegal drug. This measure marks a potentially large shift in the medical community towards veering away from its liberal prescribing habits and taking more precaution with prescribing opiates and taking action in fighting the opiate addiction crisis that has swept through the U.S.
If someone you know struggles with prescription or opiate addiction treatment, call Morningside Recovery today at 855-631-2135 to help them find treatment. Our treatment specialists are ready to work with you to get your loved one on the path to recovery.