Chronic pain from sickle cell anemia, cancer, and end-stage illnesses often requires strong, potentially addictive pain medication. Unfortunately, that was something many patients couldn't obtain in the aftermath of the 2016 opioid guidelines for chronic pain issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There have been many stories about pharmacists refusing to fill opioid prescriptions for terminal patients, as well as doctors who were afraid to offer pain remedies for fear of being labeled as "pill pushers."
That led to several studies and reports exposing overzealous application of the 2016 guidelines. They revealed that inflexibly regarding dosages, hard limits on the amount of medication that could be prescribed, and abrupt tapering off the medications was harming some patients.
The CDC now acknowledges that the clinical application that resulted from the 2016 guidelines was overzealous. As a result, it issued new guidelines for clinicians who prescribe opioids for acute, subacute, and chronic pain.
The new guidelines give clinicians and patients flexibility in deciding what pain relief strategy is best, and stress the importance of tapering off over time. They also point out that opioids shouldn't be used as first-line or routine therapy for subacute or chronic pain, and nonopioid therapies are often better for many types of acute pain.
Where does this leave you if you're contending with severe acute or chronic pain?
It leaves you with the chance to explore all the options — including effective, nonopioid alternatives — with your doctor, arrange for management of opioid prescriptions by a pain-management specialist, and to receive proper help in stopping them when appropriate.