For Prescribers - National Safety Council
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For Prescribers

Doctors Uniquely Positioned to Reduce Pain Reliever Misuse

More than 47,600 people died in 2017 from opioid-related overdose – more than 130 lives each day. For the first time, a person is more likely to die of an opioid overdose than a motor vehicle crash. NSC experts believe medical professionals can be leaders in attacking this epidemic by embracing new research on opioids and modifying old prescribing habits.

Opioids are commonly prescribed for chronic pain, but there is conflicting evidence that long-term opioid use is effective at reducing chronic pain. For the majority of pain patients, alternative treatment options are more appropriate and carry far fewer risks. Research shows a combination of over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g. ibuprofen and acetaminophen) offers the most effective relief. Opioids should be used only after non-opioid options with less risk have been tried unsuccessfully.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises prescribers that a three-day supply is often enough. In some cases, opioid medication may actually delay the healing process, generate unfavorable side effects and increase the risk of a substance use disorder. Opioids should be used only when indicated and in small doses for the least amount of time possible.

Read: Evidence for the Efficacy of Pain Medications

Free Webinars

How NSC is Working to Improve Pain Management

Through the Physician Speakers Bureau established by NSC, doctors are available to share best practices for pain management with other medical professionals. The medical experts on the Physician Speakers Bureau provide education on:

  • The current state of the opioid overdose epidemic
  • Evidence-based pain management practices based on CDC guidelines
  • Evidence-based treatment

Learn more about the experts or request a speaker.

Safe Prescribing Guidelines and Training for Treating Chronic Pain

Healthcare providers and patients often find chronic pain to be challenging. The CDC highlights three main focus areas in its safe prescribing guideline:

  • Determining when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain
  • Opioid selection, dosage, duration, follow-up and discontinuation
  • Assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use

Check out additional resources and tools on CDC's mobile app.

Watch: CDC partnered with the University of Washington to develop a webinar training series with an objective of providing content that will demonstrate and instruct participants how to incorporate the 12 CDC recommendations for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

Initiating Therapy

Before anyone begins long-term opioid therapy, careful consideration must be given to evidence-based opioid prescribing. Doctors should provide:

  • Appropriate informed consent, including a clear description of the risk of falls, cognitive impairment, driving impairment, constipation, hyperalgesia, physical dependence, addiction and premature death
  • Thorough screening for mental illness and/or substance use disorders
  • Detailed history, including family history, and a search of the state prescription monitoring program
  • Evaluation of current functional abilities
  • Complete physical evaluation and drug screening