CDC Offers Prescribing Guidelines for Opioid Medications

Physician prescribing practices are usually laid out by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency which has caught a lot of flak in recent years due to its perceived hand in the American opioid epidemic. While such criticisms are neither misplaced nor unfounded, the fact remains that there are a number of underlying factors that led to the problems we face as a nation today. That being said, rather than point fingers, government agencies need to come together to troubleshoot a scourge that take over 70 lives a day from opioid overdose deaths – 44 of which can be linked to prescription opioids.

Clearly, with such high stakes, it is paramount that doctors and nurse practitioners rethink their prescribing practices when it comes to narcotic painkillers, such as OxyContin ® (oxycodone) and Vicodin ® (hydrocodone). Nobody can deny all the hard work prescribers are required to do in order to be in the position they are in today, but the reality remains that many doctors do not have a great understanding of addiction and the role they can play in mitigating the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published prescribing guidelines, urging doctors to steer clear from opioid narcotics for chronic pain, USA Today reports. The new guidelines make exceptions for the severest of pain, such as for those receiving cancer treatment or end-of-life care. The CDC’s suggestions are intended mainly for primary care physicians, but they are not mandatory – meaning doctors can still prescribe opioid narcotics at their own discretion. The agency points out that that primary care doctors prescribe nearly 50 percent of all opioids.

“We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently,” said CDC director Thomas Frieden. “We hope to see fewer deaths from opiates. That’s the bottom line. These are really dangerous medications that carry the risk of addiction and death.”

The agency would like doctors to refer to the guidelines for:

  • Gauging when to begin using opioids for chronic pain.
  • Determining when to continue using opiates for chronic pain.
  • Deciding the right painkiller for treating a patient.
  • Determining how long to administer painkillers.
  • Weighing the risks of prescribing opioids.

“Overprescribing opioids—largely for chronic pain—is a key driver of America’s drug-overdose epidemic,” said Frieden in a news release. “The guideline will give physicians and patients the information they need to make more informed decisions about treatment.”

It is important to remember that addiction treatment is most successful when it is carefully tailored to meet an individual’s needs. At Family Recovery Specialists, we offer a variety of evidence-based, innovative programs to meet the unique challenges our clients will face in recovering from addiction and other mental health issues. If you or a family member struggles with prescription drug addictions, you can learn more here about our programs.

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