After nearly two years of contention and opposition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new national guidelines to limit opiate drugs as prescription painkillers. Drug industry leaders and pain doctors hold fast that the new rules are arbitrary and could negatively affect those who have legitimate chronic pain.
The CDC is the United States’ leading national institution for public health. Their new guidelines come from the growing fear that the United States is enduring the worst drug crisis to hit public health in decades. A majority of the states already have regulations of their own in place, but these address medications containing opiates.
Primary care doctors are the major target of the new guidelines. Many are in untraining in how to use opiate drugs. Yet they prescribe almost half of those circulating to the general public. Doctors are now urged to monitor prescription drug tracking systems to control the number of medications that their patients are receiving. Patients should be urine testes before handing over a prescription.
Addiction experts agree with the guidelines’ recommendation that doctors first suggest over-the-counter medications to treat patients with pain. Aspirin and ibuprofen should serve as treatments for short-term pain rather than opioid medication. Current practices allow patients two weeks or a month’s supply of pills. New guidelines limit opioid intake to three days for short-term pain; seven days maximum. At this time, 49 states have regulation systems in place. However, only a mere 16 require doctors to use them, report experts at Brandeis University.
Prescriptions opiate drugs for patients with cancer or end-of-life treatments will not be affecting by the guidelines. The overarching goal is to balance risks of addiction with the needs of users. An increasing number of prescription pill-related deaths and overdoses have links to opioids. Since 2010, prescriptions for the highly addictive substance have leveled off. But the CDC wants to see a much more dramatic drop in the use of opioids by the general public. Doctors are urging to find alternative treatments that will help those who face long-term or chronic aches and pains.