An epidemic of deaths and overdoses attributed to opioid painkillers is sweeping the United States—and has been for decades. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 persons died from overdose related to opioid pain medication in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet in 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication.
To fight the opioid addiction epidemic, the CDC released new guidelines targeted at primary care physicians. Based on scientifically backed researcher and input from experts, the guidelines address:
- Determining when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain;
- Opioid selection, dosage, duration, follow-up, and discontinuation; and
- Assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use.
“This guideline is intended to improve communication between clinicians and patients about the risks and benefits of opioid therapy for chronic pain, improve the safety and effectiveness of pain treatment, and reduce the risks associated with long-term opioid therapy, including opioid use disorder, overdose and death,” the authors state in the summary.
The CDC will distribute the guidelines to health systems, medical professional societies, insurers, public health departments, health information technology developers and clinicians. They have also provided a checklist for prescribing opioids for chronic pain and additional resources, such as fact sheets.