The US has a serious opioid problem.
An estimated 2.1 million Americans suffers from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers.
To combat that, on Tuesday the CDC released finalised guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
The guidelines are designed to help family doctors and general practitioners who prescribe opioid painkillers, a category of medications that includes drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin.
The number of deaths related to overdosing on opioid pain relievers has been on the rise over the past decade, eclipsing deaths related to heroin overdoses.
Here are some of the main takeaways for doctors:
- Doctors should try to use other treatments first, before opting for opioids, and short time frames are preferred (days, rather than months for chronic pain).
- Physicians should only prescribe opioid painkillers if and when the benefits, such as relief from painful surgical operations or injuries, outweigh the costs, such as potential physical dependence and addiction. Doctors and patients should re-evaluate pain-management plans every 3 months.
- For patients just going on treatment doctors should start patients on the lowest-possible dosage.
- Physicians should review the patient’s history of controlled substance prescriptions and use urine drug tests to look for the prescribed medications as well as other not-so-prescribed drugs.
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