New CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids draws mixed reactions
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The nation’s top public health agency on Thursday softened its guidelines for U.S. doctors prescribing oxycodone and other opioid painkillers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new recommendations are an update to 2016 guidelines that added momentum to a decline in opioid painkiller prescriptions.
Opioid painkillers can be addictive — even when used under doctors’ orders — and were identified as a big reason for a rise in U.S. drug overdoses that began more than two decades ago. Other drugs have overtaken them in overdose statistics, and illicit fentanyl is now the biggest driver of deaths.
The previous guidance succeeded in reducing inappropriate and dangerous prescribing, some experts say. But they also were seen as a barrier to care, with some pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions as doctors wrote them.
The new guidelines are designed to ensure that patients get compassionate and safe pain care, CDC officials said.
However, some are worried about the damage this could cause.
“I’m afraid not only for the people in recovery that might go out, and more than likely lose their lives, but I’m afraid for our country and the fabric of our society,” said Daniel Hobdy.
Hobdy battled a drug and alcohol addiction for over 20 years.
Today, he’s 14 months sober and helps other people around Baton Rouge enter recovery, but he’s the first to admit he was no saint.
In July 2018, he was arrested for reportedly holding a man and a woman hostage.
Hobdy says the damage of his past crimes and his misuse of drugs is what led him to go down a different path. It’s also why he’s concerned about what could happen if more people are prescribed these drugs.
“I’m afraid not only for the people in recovery that might go out, and more than likely lose their lives, but I’m afraid for our country and the fabric of our society,” Hobdy said.
Hobdy is worried this could erase some progress made against the opioid crisis.
“We make so many steps forward, and we make leaps and bounds, and sometimes as a society, we take steps back and… I don’t know how many more steps back we can take,” Hobdy said.
A draft released in February received 5,500 public comments. Some modifications were made, but several main changes stayed in place, including:
- The CDC no longer suggests trying to limit opioid treatment for acute pain to three days.
- The agency is dropping the specific recommendation that doctors avoid increasing dosage to a level equivalent to 90 milligrams of morphine per day.
- For patients receiving higher doses of opioids, the CDC is urging doctors to not abruptly halt treatment unless there are indications of life-threatening danger. The agency offers suggestions on tapering patients off the drugs.
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