CDC proposes opioid prescribing guidelines that give doctors more flexibility

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday released draft updated guidelines for prescribing opioids that would give doctors more flexibility as the medical community seeks to find a balance between treating pain and fighting addiction.

Guidelines issued in 2016 included specific recommendations, including often limiting opioid prescriptions for acute pain to three days and not exceeding a dose of the equivalent of 90 milligrams of morphine per day.  

The new proposed guidelines shy away from specific numbers and instead more broadly urge doctors to exercise caution when prescribing opioids.  

“Clinicians should prescribe the lowest dosage to achieve expected effects” when patients begin taking opioids, the guidelines state.  

If possible, they recommend that “nonopioid therapies are preferred for subacute and chronic pain.” 

“We’ve built in flexibility so that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Christopher Jones, acting director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, told USA Today. 

The previous specific thresholds, he added, “were essentially taken out of context beyond [their] intent and applied as rigid laws, regulations and policies.” 

The previous guidelines drew controversy amid complaints that some chronic pain patients who needed opioids were being denied the proper treatment, even as opioid prescriptions fell.

The opioid crisis has in some cases also shifted from prescription drugs to illicit ones like heroin or fentanyl.  

Drug overdose deaths have been rising at an alarming rate. The CDC said in November that 100,306 people died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in April 2021. That was an increase of 28.5 percent from the 78,056 deaths the year before.  

The new CDC guidelines are a draft and are now open for comment.  

Tags Drugs Fentanyl Opioid overdose
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