Why The CDC Is Offering New Guidelines For Doctors Writing Opioid Prescriptions

According to Cleveland Clinic, pain is a discomforting feeling that can serve as an alert that something is not right in the body. In general, when pain comes on quickly and sharply and lasts less than 6 months it is called acute pain. Acute pain often comes from a direct trauma like a broken bone or a cut. On the other hand, chronic pain typically lasts for over 6 months and can occur in the absence of bodily harm. Most people will experience acute pain in their lifetimes. Healthline says that nearly 50 million American adults deal with chronic pain.

Regardless of which type of pain you may feel, many people seek help from medical professionals to cope with pain. Some prescription medications used to treat pain are called opioids. Opioids like hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone may be able to help treat pain, but there are also some serious health risks (via the United States Food and Drug Administration). Prescription opioids not only have the potential to be abused — they can also cause an overdose. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that opioid prescriptions predominantly come from primary care physicians, but pain medicine clinicians and dentists also prescribe them regularly. Recently, the CDC changed its clinical practice guidelines for the prescription of opioids for pain. Here's everything you need to know.

CDC loosens guidelines for opioid prescriptions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated and added new information on its clinical practice guidelines for prescribing opioids. The new guidelines build on the ​​2016 CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines, which pertain to the prescription of opioids for acute, subacute, and chronic pain for outpatient adults. Notably, the guidelines do not apply to the management of pain related to cancer, end-of-life care, palliative care, and sickle cell disease.

While the 2016 guidelines may have helped limit inappropriate opioid prescriptions, it may have also limited access to care, reports NBC News. The CDC removed the recommendation against an increased dosage of 90 milligrams (mg) of morphine each day. The new guidelines also do not recommend the limitation of opioid use for treatment of acute pain to three days. Further, the CDC now recommends against the sudden stoppage of treatment for patients getting higher doses of opioids barring any signs of harm that could lead to death. Notably, the CDC states that these guidelines are merely recommendations to support clinical judgment and foster quality communication between doctors and patients. The new guidelines are not rigid standards.