Opioid use in the U.S. has ballooned out of control in recent years, leading to increased numbers of overdoses and a general dependence on pain killers that is unhealthy. In order to curb this negative behavior, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has entered a plea aimed at healthcare professionals in the form of new guidelines.
The guidelines ask doctors to limit prescribing painkillers, which have proven to be very addictive and dangerous to many consumers. They lays out recommendations for doctors that will hopefully bring about “a culture shift for patients and doctors,” according to Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC.
Steps towards progress
This action by the CDC comes as a relief to many who believe that the problem has grown out of control in recent years. “For the first time, the federal government is communicating clearly that the widespread practice of prescribing opioids for chronic pain is inappropriate, that the risks outweigh the benefits,” said Andrew Kolodny, executive director of the nonprofit group Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescirbing.
However, the CDC is not the only agency attempting to change the current culture on opioids. As reported by the Washington Post, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun combing over its policies on opioid medication, legislation has been passed by the Senate to expand treatment for drug abuse and encourage prevention programs, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is cracking down on physicians who aren’t prescribing medications correctly.
Senatorial support for change has also come to the forefront lately. Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia has come out as a staunch backer for reform and the new CDC guidelines. “I have pushed for the release of these guidelines because I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse on individuals, families, and communities,” he said.
In the end, though, the burden of change lays on doctors and healthcare providers. And, as with many things, these changes may take some time for them to get used to. Doctors point out that not too long ago, many healthcare professionals were criticized for undertreating pain. Add in the enormous sums of money paid by drug companies to push their drugs and you may have a recipe for our current state of affairs.
Other factors play a part too, of course. Many doctors prescribe medication for pain simply because they are trying to avoid low satisfaction scores from patients. Advances in understanding opioids and addiction may have also passed many doctors by.
“When I went to medical school I had exactly one lecture on pain, and the lecture said if you give an opioid to a patient in pain, they will not get addicted. . . Completely wrong, and yet a generation of doctors grew up being taught that,” said Dr. Frieden.
Solutions for helping doctors get up to speed may include refresher training on opioid use and the effects it can have. The CDC also recommends that doctors be vigilant in monitoring how effective a drug they prescribe is. They should also check if there is a danger to the patient taking it and determine if the drug is being abused or causing addiction.