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Talk About Your Medicines Month – 4: CDC recommends guidelines to check opioid abuse

The benign nature of opioids that was once looked upon as nothing short of a medical miracle for the treatment of pain is now the biggest cause of worry for the American government. The addictive nature of opioids, coupled with people’s tendency to abuse them, has unleashed a feeling of terror among the Americans, even in the medical fraternity. While doctors are still mulling over the correct dosage to be recommended to patients complaining of excruciating pain, the idea of advising opioids is now looked at with awe.

October is observed as the “Talk About Your Medicines Month” every year with this year’s theme focusing on the need of medication management and importance of safety. While addiction to various kinds of drugs are killing Americans every day, the increasing prevalence of dependence on prescription painkillers has resulted in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) denouncing it as an epidemic. Its abuse costs the U.S. economy $78.5 billion every year, according to a research published in the journal Medical Care in October 2016.

CDC issues guidelines amid raging opioid scourge

In the midst of escalating concern over widely prescribed opioids for treatment of cancerous or non-cancerous pain, the CDC had issued guidelines in March 2016 to address the large number of deaths resulting from opioid misuse.

The CDC’s “Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain” is an attempt to bring about an improvement in communication between medical practitioners and their patients about the perils and advantages of opioids. The guidelines are based on the need to enhance safety levels and efficacy of the pain treatment process and to alleviate the potential risks linked to prolonged treatment with opioids. Some recommendations of the CDC are:

  • To give preference to non-pharmacologic or non-opioid treatment methods for pain management. Opioid therapy needs to be considered after taking into account its pros and cons and ensuring that the benefits obtained outweigh the potential risks.
  • Apart from the need to inform the patients about the possible risks and realistic benefits associated with opioid prescription, physicians must recommend immediate-release opioids as opposed to extended-release/ long-acting opioids.
  • While advising opioids, the lowest effective dosage needs to be prescribed. Caution needs to be exercised before deciding on the dosage after evaluating possible benefits against the risks involved. The quantity prescribed must not exceed the expected duration of opioids. A dosage for three days is allowed and prescription beyond seven days must be rarely recommended.
  • Investigation of the benefits and harms caused to patients must be done within one to four weeks of initiating opioid therapy for acute pain or before recommending increase in opioid dosages. The patients need to be evaluated every three months or more on a frequent basis. Clinicians need to work upon other available therapies.
  • There is an ardent need to check a patient’s past records of prescriptions. This can be done by regular checking the data collected and collated under the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) that helps determine if the patient is already on opioids or a combination of other drugs.
  • Adequate stress must be laid on evaluation of PDMP details before initiating opioid therapy for acute pain and during the undergoing opioid therapy for prolonged pain.
  • While recommending opioids for critical pain, physicians must use urine drug testing methods before opioid therapy and take into consideration drug testing at a gap of minimum of one year to examine presence of prescribed medicines or other controlled prescription painkillers and illicit drugs.
  • For patients afflicted with opioid use disorder, physicians must offer or make necessary arrangements for evidence-based treatment procedure usually involving medication-assisted treatment processes with buprenorphine or methadone along with certain behavioral therapies.

The guidelines aimed to cut down on prescription of opioids for treatment of pain while laying stress on the need for physicians to explore alternative methods for management of pain have invited a good deal of discussions in the medical fraternity. In 2016, many states have executed some of its guidelines.

Scope of recovery

Opioids need to be taken only when needed and to the extent it is required to treat pain and related disorders. Indulging in its use for sedative or hallucinatory impact can wreak havoc in terms of unbridled addictive habit. If you are looking for professional help to rid your loved ones of addictive habit, contact the 247 Recovery Helpline to know about substance abuse treatment centers in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online to know about the treatment centers for drug addiction.

Read the other articles of the series based on the “Talk About Your Medicines Month”:

 Talk About Your Medicines Month-1: Know more about your prescriptions

Talk About Your Medicines Month-2: Understanding potency of opioid addiction

Talk About Your Medicines Month-3: Importance of prescription drug monitoring programs

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