The Powerful Highly-Addictive Drug
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising doctors to cut back on the dose and length of opioid prescriptions for pain when possible. The agency released 12 recommendations for doctors and other health care prescribers in March.
Prescription opioids are powerful, highly-addictive drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. A drastic increase in prescriptions for opioids in the 1990s and 2000s led to increases in the number of overdoses in the United States.
The CDC’s 12 guidelines were guided by three overarching principles:
- Nonopioid pain medications are preferred over opioids for treating chronic pain that does not involve cancer or palliative care.
- Doctors should prescribe the lowest effective dosage when prescribing opioid medications.
- Prescribers should monitor patients receiving opioid medications.
The CDC’s recommendations came after months of public comment, debate and discussion over how doctors can help reduce the prevalence of opioid addiction.
More than 28,000 people died opioid-related deaths in 2014, accounting for 61 percent of all drug overdose deaths. Previous research indicates that a large number of patients suffering from opioid addiction were introduced to the drugs by doctors who carelessly prescribed opioid-based pain medications.
The CDC is now recommending doctors prescribe immediate-release opioids instead of extended-release opioids when possible. Extended-release opioids are designed to slowly dissolve in the body for eight to 12 hours, but drug users can abuse the drugs to receive the full effect instantly.
The agency also advised clinicians that three days is usually sufficient for treating acute pain, and the need for seven days of treatment is rare.
Chronic Pain Recommendations
For chronic pain, the CDC recommends doctors evaluate the benefits and harms to the patient within four weeks of beginning opioid therapy. Other recommendations include assessing a patient’s history of illness and drug abuse before prescribing opioids
In 2016, the federal government has been actively pursuing initiatives to reduce opioid deaths. In February, President Barack Obama requested $1.1 billion to combat the opioid epidemic. The administration’s plan included increasing access to opioid overdose reversal drugs such as naloxone, expanding access to treatment providers and evaluating the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatments.
Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016
In August, the president signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. The bipartisan legislation helps fund community-based coalitions, educational efforts, law enforcement reform and expanded access to recovery solutions.
Several critics of the law say it doesn’t include enough funding to achieve its goals, but supporters say Congress has the opportunity to find funding in the future.
By Chris Elkins
Chris Elkins writes for DrugRehab.com — a comprehensive resource for addiction-related topics, from substances that cause addiction to treatment options for recovery.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, March 15). CDC Releases Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.
- Congress.gov. (2016, July 22). S.524 – Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016.
- Dowell, D., Haegerich, T. M. & Chou, R. (2016, March 15). CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United States, 2016.
- Tavernise, S. (2016, March 15). C.D.C. Painkiller Guidelines Aim to Reduce Addiction Risk.
- The White House. (2016, February 2). Fact Sheet: President Obama Proposes $1.1 Billion in New Funding to Address the Prescription Opioid Abuse and Heroin Use Epidemic [Press release].
I’m Victoria B. and I write this blog for fun and for free. My day job is over at 800 Recovery Hub