Opioid Prescribing Restrictions And Addiction Rates

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on September 2, 2022

Opioid prescriptions play a large part in the opioid epidemic. Recent changes in federal guidelines may help reduce opioid overdose and addiction rates by restricting when healthcare providers can prescribe opiates for pain management.

Restrictions For Prescribing Opioids

The use of opioids for acute pain has been a common practice among clinicians for decades.

Recent changes in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain may lead to non-opioid medications being used in their place.

Below you can find more information on how these restrictions work, the results of opioid limitations, and why they are in place to begin with.

How Do Opioid Prescription Restrictions Work?

Restrictions to opioid prescribing have been around for years. Recently, however, the federal government has put forward new recommendations in an attempt to help avoid the harms of opioid use disorder.

Past Opioid Restrictions

The new restrictions are the first revision to the CDC’s rules on opioid analgesics since 2016. There are 12 recommendations in total, but the main point of the plan is to encourage doctors to try a non-opioid option first before turning to opioid therapy.

According to Dr. Samer Narouse, president of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, this approach is different from past measures. Previous restrictions simply ordered providers to cut back on opioid prescription drugs without consideration.

Opioid Prescription Restrictions In 2022

The new document both outlines the dangers of opioid abuse while also outlining their medical purpose, particularly for pain treatment.

For example, in instances where opioid therapy seems appropriate, the new recommendations say doctors should prescribe immediate-release pills rather than the long-acting option.

Another tool touted by the CDC is a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). A PDMP can help pharmacists identify people who may be misusing prescriptions and assist in preventing drug overdose.

Results Of Opioid Limitation Laws

Many doctors saw the 2016 recommendations and feared civil litigation, which led to them tapering patients off their pain medication too abruptly.

People in palliative care with severe pain due to cancer or sickle cell were outraged over the 2016 restrictions, as their long-term opioid use is a quality of life issue rather than a substance use disorder.

The 2022 overhaul of those guidelines will give doctors more latitude for when they can prescribe opioids. The changes will also affect when they should apply a different pharmacologic therapy, such as acupuncture or other non-opioid pain management.

It’s unclear the effect these new clinical practice guidelines will have on drug abuse and the opioid crisis. However, primary care and public health professionals laud the changes as a step in the right direction.

Potential Risks Of Prescription Opioid Abuse

There are many different types of prescription opioids, but the side effects and risks associated with long-term opioid abuse are the same.

Opioids may cause side effects such as nausea, mental fog, drowsiness, and in more severe cases it can slow breathing which can result in an overdose death.

The most common types of opioid pain medication include:

The prescribing of opioids can be a powerful tool to manage chronic pain, but when abused they can pose serious risks to a person’s physical and mental health.

Find An Opioid Treatment Program

Treatment is the best long-term defense against opioid addiction, and there are a number of inpatient and outpatient options to help you recover.

Call our helpline to learn more about treatment for opioid use disorder, for help with insurance information, and more.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on September 2, 2022


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