The new CDC guidelines on pain and opioid use have been released, and these guidelines have left many patients wondering what these rules and recommendations mean for patients who have cancer, those who are dying, and individuals who deal with chronic pain. Millions of Americans struggle with opioid use disorder and the number of overdose deaths has continued to rise when opioids are abused. Studies have shown that using this class of drugs for chronic pain may be ineffective. Even worse, some studies show that when chronic long term pain is treated with these narcotic drugs this treatment may actually make the pain worse, leading to a vicious cycle where the patient never gets better in spite of being on the pain medications.
It is estimated that around 70% of people who have pain and opioid use is prescribed for have chronic pain, and the CDC guidelines list the various alternative treatments that should be tried before a doctor prescribed this class of medication. There are non narcotic medications which may provide relief, and exercise, physical therapy, and other non drug treatments may also be effective at helping to relieve chronic pain. The CDC is not calling for cancer patients or end of life patients to be refused proper pain management though. According to the report “these medications have a legitimate and important role in the treatment of severe acute pain and some severe chronic pain conditions but they are also overprescribed or prescribed without adequate safeguards and monitoring. According to the CDC opioids for patients who have non cancer pain should never be the first line of treatment or the only treatment used.