The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidelines for prescribing opioid medications for chronic pain. As many have observed, opioid prescription abuse is rampant. In an effort to curtail the abuse of these medications, the CDC has issued the CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, which is available on its website:
The CDC cites some concerning statistics regarding the widespread nature of the opioid addiction epidemic, including: (1) a 300% increase in prescription opioid sales since 1999; (2) two million Americans were dependent on opioid pain relievers in 2013; and (3) in 2013 more than 16,000 people died in the United States from an overdose of opioid pain relievers, which was four times higher than the number of overdoses in 1999.
The CDC Guidelines recommend pursuing other means of pain management such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; exercise therapy for back pain, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis of the knee or hip; nonopioid pain relievers; and epidural injections. The Guidelines recognize that opioids can be a useful tool for treating pain, but recommends risk analysis, regular assessments, and monitoring of dosage and duration whenever opioids are used to treat pain. The Guidelines also recommend that prescribing doctors should require urine drug testing for patients to whom they describe opioids, both to ensure that patients are not diverting (selling) their medication and to ensure that patients are not taking illegal drugs that can be lethal when combined with prescription opiates.
While these guidelines are not enforceable law, compliance with them may benefit public health and limit physician liability.