While the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently proposed new guidelines that would ease restrictions on prescription opioids, aiming to give millions of Americans suffering intractable and chronic pain better access to the opioid painkillers, both physicians and addiction experts predict that few governors or lawmakers will be eager to loosen restrictions during an ongoing overdose epidemic, reports Pew Stateline.
Initial CDC guidelines recommended that doctors limit initial prescriptions of opioid painkillers to no more than a week and set a maximum daily dose that is roughly equal to 90 mg of morphine, while also stressing that starting any new patients on the highly addictive painkillers should be a last resort.
The new guidelines would give doctors wide discretion to weigh the benefits of pain relief and improved physical function against the known risks of opioid painkillers, while also setting no limits on dosage.
The CDC stresses that physicians should never abandon patients who seek higher doses or longer use of painkillers than the existing recommendations, noting that doing so is contributing to “patient harm, including untreated and undertreated pain, serious withdrawal symptoms, worsening pain outcomes, psychological distress, overdose, and suicidal ideation and behavior.”
In response, a few states have modified their opioid prescribing statutes over the past six years, allowing exceptions to the rules and extending the duration of prescriptions, but most have left their original prescribing restrictions intact.