Guideline Information for Providers
Safe Prescribing Saves Lives
Chronic pain is common, multidimensional, and individualized, and treatment can be challenging for healthcare providers as well as patients. In response to the critical need for consistent and current opioid prescribing guidelines, the CDC released the new Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.
Since 1999, opioid prescriptions have quadrupled, and over 165,000 people have died from prescription opioids.1 These new recommendations focus on clinical practice and provide evidence and guidance to improve how these drugs are prescribed—and ultimately improve patient care.
What is the purpose of the new guideline?
The guideline helps providers make informed decisions about pain treatment for patients 18 and older in primary care settings. The recommendations focus on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain—pain lasting longer than three months or past the time of normal tissue healing. The guideline is not intended for patients who are in active cancer treatment, palliative care, or end-of-life care.
Opioids pose a risk to all patients. The guideline encourages providers to implement best practices for responsible prescribing.
Use nonopioid therapies
Use nonpharmacologic therapies (such as exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy) and nonopioid pharmacologic therapies (such as anti-inflammatories) for chronic pain. Don’t use opioids routinely for chronic pain. When opioids are used, combine them with nonpharmacologic or nonopioid pharmacologic therapy, as appropriate, to provide greater benefits.
Start low and go slow
When opioids are used, prescribe the lowest possible effective dosage and start with immediate-release opioids instead of extended-release/long-acting opioids. Only provide the quantity needed for the expected duration of pain.
Regularly monitor patients to make sure opioids are improving pain and function without causing harm. If benefits do not outweigh harms, optimize other therapies and work with patients to taper or reduce dosage and discontinue, if needed.
Poison Help & Treatment Locator
If you suspect your patient has a substance abuse issue, refer them to SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.
- CDC. Wide-ranging online data for epidemiologic research (WONDER). Atlanta, GA: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2016. Available at http://wonder.cdc.gov.