Intended for healthcare professionals


Opioids should be last resort to treat chronic pain, says draft CDC guideline

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 18 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6905
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

Doctors should consider prescribing opioids for chronic pain only “if [the] expected benefits for both pain and function are anticipated to outweigh risks to the patient,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said in a draft guideline released on 14 December.1

The preferred treatment for patients with chronic pain is non-opioid drugs and physical, psychological, and other non-pharmacologic therapy, the CDC said, given the lack of evidence that long term treatment with opioids is effective for chronic pain and given the known risks of abuse, dependence, overdose, and death associated with long term use.

Over the past decade and a half the number of deaths related to overdose of opioid analgesics in the United States has soared, with more than 16 000 such deaths reported in 2013 alone. The epidemic has been blamed largely on the increased use of prescribed opioids.2 …

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