The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released new guidelines for opioid prescriptions in response to growing misuse of the drug. Opioid prescriptions are often the gateway to opioid abuse and dependence.
“More than 40 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses; we must act now,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement. “Overprescribing opioids – largely for chronic pain – is a key driver of America’s drug-overdose epidemic. The guideline will give physicians and patients the information they need to make more informed decisions about treatment.”
The CDC recommendations apply to opioid use for chronic pain, which is classified as pain lasting more than three months or beyond normal tissue healing time, according to the CDC. The guidelines do not apply to cancer patients, end-of-life care and palliative care.
In the guidelines, the main advice the CDC provides includes:
- When providers do prescribe opioids, they should be used at the lowest possible effective dosage.
- Try treatments other than opioids first. Other methods may include ice, Tylenol or ibuprofen.
- Providers should thoroughly explain risks of opioids to patients and ensure that they are understood. They should also closely monitor all patients.
According to the CDC, opioid overdoses have hit a record high in the United States. More than 47, 000 people died of drug overdoses in 2014, according federal data published in January 2016.
"In 2014, opioids were involved in 28,647 deaths, or 61% of all drug overdose deaths".
Like many Americans, I have had my own experiences with painkillers. Last summer, I found myself in deep pain. While walking in a parking lot, my left foot rolled on uneven pavement. There was not a popping sound, and I didn't fall.
Since I'm a runner, I assumed I could "walk it off." Once inside my office, I elevated my foot, yet, still it was throbbing. I decided to walk downstairs to get a bag of ice. Back at my desk, I elevated my foot, put the ice on it, and still the swelling continued. The pain was intense.
Hours later, I was in the emergency room at my local hospital where I got the diagnosis. I had a Jones fracture. Before I was even given crutches or a discharge summary, I was offered prescription-strength painkillers. I declined.
The medical staff insisted I take the prescription, but I never got it filled. Instead, I decided to take over-the-counter pain medication, ice my foot and not put any weight on it.
I don't have a history of abusing pain medication. However, I wanted to know the baseline for the pain so I could tell when my foot began to heal. I knew if I masked the pain with a prescription medication, it wouldn't give me an accurate picture.
Accidents like mine occur on a daily basis. People have surgical procedures and are given prescription painkillers to cope. Many patients choose to get their prescriptions filled, and unfortunately not all patients take their painkillers as prescribed. Leaving them available for others, such as children, to find and use may lead to an overdose.
If an injury or surgery occurs, it is important to talk about recovery options with your provider, without relying solely on prescription medications. Ask what other options are available.
Also, be aware that if you keep your prescription medication in an unlocked cabinet, there is the potential that others will consume them. Not everyone reacts to medication in an identical way. Just because you have never abused pain medication does not mean others will not. It is very important not to give away your pills to anyone.
If you have a chronic pain problem, seek out ways to avoid abusing or becoming dependent on prescription medication. Talking with your doctor about your fears of dependence or past abuse of medications is vital. Seeking professional help from a licensed therapist is also an option.
For a full copy of the new CDC guidelines, visit: http://bit.ly/CDC-opioid
Reviewed March 16, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith