Addiction Professionals Hopeful After CDC Crackdown on Painkiller Prescriptions
NEW YORK, New York (March 18, 2014) – After more than 200,000 deaths from opioid overdoses – a 900% increase – since 2000, new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control have some addiction professionals, therapists and licensed counselors seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
The CDC released this week a new set of suggestions for doctors in the United States when prescribing highly addictive painkillers such as Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin. Prescribing these types of opiates has become routine practice for many doctors when treating chronic conditions such as migraines, arthritis, and back problems. The new guidelines seem aimed at cutting down the promiscuous dispensing of the prescription drugs, but also using alternative methods to treat pain.
The new CDC guidelines recommend doctors choose treatments such as less-potent medications like Tylenol or Ibuprofen, exercise regimens, or even behavioral therapy before prescribing the easily administered and easily obtainable opiates. The federal guidelines are not binding on doctors and only apply to chronic pain patients whose pain persists in excess of three months. Also, the suggestions do not apply to cancer patients or those who are terminally ill.
The federally issued guidelines come after clinical studies showed that short-term use of prescription painkillers can be effective – but that extended use of the drugs provided insufficient evidence for long-term benefits, and in some cases even exacerbated patients’ pain. The guidelines are due in part to the rampant rise of prescription painkiller addiction in the country, which for 4 out of 5 heroin users, was the birthplace of their addiction.
“More than 80 percent of the people who come into our programs with a heroin addiction tell us it started out with prescription painkillers,” says Vertava Health Director of Alumni Amber Mohr. “It often starts out as an injury or a surgery. They were given an opiate, got addicted to it, tried to obtain more of it legally, and then eventually turned to the street when they could no longer get a written prescription.”
After they turn to the street, Mohr says people battling opiate addiction realize quickly that, where they are paying over $100 for a pill on the street, they can get a bag of heroin for $5-$15. Mohr says the new guidelines will be beneficial to her in maintaining a balanced lifestyle for her clients.
“When someone faces acute pain from an injury and the drugs are necessary in a small amount, that can still be a trigger for someone maintaining a healthy recovery,” says Mohr. “The key to staying true to a life free of addiction is consistent maintenance on a balanced life, and triggers can sometimes disrupt that if you let them.”
Mohr, whose department offers a lifetime continuum of care, says that continuing a balance in every aspect of your life – from work to finances to social life – is vital to a successful recovery from substance addiction.
Just like addiction, recovery is a gradual process. We believe these guidelines are going to help reduce the dangers of addiction, and make a small dent in the fight against our nation’s growing epidemic.