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Opioids are a type of drug used to alleviate moderate to moderately severe pain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), “Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.” When opioids are ingested, they work by attaching to opioid receptors, which are in one’s brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in one’s body. Opioids adjust the amount of information surrounding pain that is relayed to various areas of one’s body, by reducing one’s perception of pain. To help primary care clinicians weigh benefits and risks of opioid treatment for chronic pain, in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. At the same time, new laws, regulations, and policies, some of which were inconsistent with the 2016 guideline, immerged, resulted in its gross misapplication and other harmful effects. These unintended outcomes underscored the need for an updated guideline that accurately reflects the evolution in thinking of how opioids should be used, and the reality of how they are being used.

2022 Guidelines: What You Need To Know

On November 4th, 2022, the CDC released the updated version of the Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain. These guidelines aim to strike a balance between avoiding disruptions to people’s lives and limiting the risks that some attribute to long-term opioid use (e.g., addiction, mental health problems, increased sensitivity to pain, etc.). According to the CDC Factsheet, “to develop the Guideline, CDC followed a transparent and rigorous scientific process using the best available scientific evidence, consulting with experts, and listening to comments from the public and partners.” The new guideline retains the following 2016 principles for prescribing opioids for chronic pain:

  • Clinicians should maximize use of nonopioid therapies 
  • Consider initiating opioid therapy only if the expected benefits for pain and function are anticipated to outweigh the risks 
  • Clinicians should initiate therapy at the lowest effective dosage
  • Carefully evaluate individual benefits and risks when considering increasing dosages
  • Avoid increasing the dosage above levels likely to yield diminishing returns in benefits relative to risks

Like the 2016 version, the new guidelines are not meant to apply to patients with cancer or sickle cell disease, nor do they apply to end-of-life pain care. A major theme of the 2022 guideline is that people with pain require individualized care, and that prescribers must calibrate doses and timeframes to meet a patient’s distinct needs, while simultaneously minimizing the harms that can come with opioid use.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.

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