More than 64,138 people died in 2020 from an opioid-related overdose. 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.
Healthcare providers and patients often find chronic pain to be challenging. The CDC highlights three main focus areas in its safe prescribing guideline:
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.
Before anyone begins long-term opioid therapy, careful consideration must be given to evidence-based opioid prescribing. Doctors should provide: