CDC Opiates: New Guidelines Released For Prescribing Of Opiate-Based Painkillers, Will It Help Or Hurt Patients?

Earlier today, the CDC issued new guidelines to primary care physicians regarding the prescribing of opiates for chronic pain sufferers. Prescription opiates are one of the most abused forms of medication and lead to more overdoses than other prescription medications. CDC Director, Tom Frieden, released a statement shortly after the new CDC opiate guidelines were released. The entire CDC guideline on opiates can be read here.

“More than 40 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses, we must act now. 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.”

These CDC guidelines give a more direct framework to guide primary care physicians and their patients to have a more informed decision before going directly to prescribing opiates. Doctors will now be directed to treat patients with chronic pain by starting with Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). From there, opiates can be prescribed by starting with the lowest dose and working up as needed. The CDC guidelines also state the duration of prescription opiates should be shortened to the least amount of days as possible.

Another part of the CDC opiates guidelines deal with education. Primary care providers will need to make sure patients fully understand the potential harm that opiates can do, including addiction. Before prescribing opiates, doctors will need to carefully determine if the benefits of being on these types of strong painkillers outweigh the potential negatives.

These new guidelines are being applauded by officials in the government. United States Senator, Richard Blumenthal, commented on today’s CDC release.

“The CDC’s new opioid prescribing guidelines are an overdue but positive step that will help stem addiction and save lives—if they are respected. The guidelines can help ensure safe and effective treatment for patients without compromising access to needed treatment. The over-prescription of painkillers ferociously feeds the rampant opioid epidemic currently sweeping our country like a hurricane, and these commonsense guidelines will usher in changes that will help calm this deadly storm.”

Representative, Elizabeth Esty, also commented on the opiates guidelines.

“The best way to combat the opioid epidemic is to prevent people from becoming addicted to opioids in the first place. The CDC’s guidelines give physicians and patients additional tools to better manage pain and to minimize the risk of opioid addiction. Patient education, alternative pain management, and early detection of opioid addiction are crucial elements of our nationwide addiction prevention strategy, and I applaud the CDC for their work to bring an end to this epidemic.”

There is plenty of evidence that proves that the United States is facing a crisis when it comes to addiction to opiates. A 2013 study by the CDC determined that 1.9 million people either abused or were addicted to prescription opiates. Thomas Frieden stated that some prescription opiates are equivalent in strength to heroine.

The new guidelines is a drastic change in United States medicine. For many years, pain was seen as a symptom that needed to be regulated rapidly with strong painkillers. It is important to state that these are only guidelines. Doctors are not legally bound or required to follow them.

For patients suffering from cancer or are receiving end of life treatment, these guidelines do not apply.

Do you think the CDC guidelines on opiates will help cure the addiction epidemic currently plaguing the United States?

[Image Via AP Photo/Toby Talbot]