More than 40 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses, and since 1999, the amount of opioid prescriptions has quadrupled. There are a lot of opinions and controversy surrounding the fairly recent opioid epidemic, with many opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone becoming mainstream drug names.
Some people have the misconception that this epidemic was caused by crooked doctors that handed out prescriptions for cash, but in reality, this primarily began due to overprescribing opioids for common conditions.
There are a few reasons why opioids are a problem:
- Doctors are prescribing to people who are already addicted
- Doctors have been conditioned through marketing to believe that prescribing an opioid is the compassionate way to handle patient pain
Regardless of how or why this started, it is evident that there is a serious problem with opioid abuse and prescription-related deaths. The Center of Disease Control released a guideline of 12 recommendations regarding how to prescribe opioids, and while the intent is good, there is much controversy in the medical field because this is the first time the CDC has advised doctors how to practice medicine.
In order for doctors to combat the opioid epidemic, the CDC has provided a framework for medical providers to follow, although for now, these are just guidelines and not required by law. These guidelines include 12 specific recommendations, and these recommendations are each based off three basic principles.
3 Principles of Opioid Prescription
- With the exception of cancer, palliative, or end-of-life-care, opioids should NOT be the first choice for treatment of chronic pain. Instead, physiotherapy, non-opioid drugs, or alternative non-pharmacological treatments should be preferred.
- If an opioid must be prescribed, use the lowest possible dose.
- All doctors and medical practitioners should take extreme caution when prescribing opioids. If prescribed, patients should be monitored carefully for any signs of addiction or simply acting slightly “off”.
For a more detailed analysis on prescription opioids, refer to the detailed analysis published by the CDC as a guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.