On March 18, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new guidelines aimed at limiting the prescription of opioid painkillers amid reports of rampant overuse which has contributed to “a pervasive and deadly epidemic in the U.S.” according to the CDC agency director.
The new guidelines encourage doctors to pursue alternative treatments for chronic pain before prescribing opioids, such as physical therapy, exercise and over-the-counter pain medications. If opioids are necessary, the guidelines urge doctors to prescribe the lowest effective dosage possible and to monitor patients carefully given the highly-addictive nature of opiods such as OxyContin and Vicodin. The guidelines also recommend limiting opioid prescriptions to three days or less for treating acute pain, saying that more than seven days of opioid drugs “will rarely be needed.”
As part of the new guidelines, the CDC also urged doctors to change drug screening policies that might disqualify patients who test positive for THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) from a pain management program. Historically, passing a test for any illegal substances has been a prerequisite for participation in a pain treatment plan but the CDC is looking to change this old philospophy that can lead to “stigmatization” and “inappropriate termination of care.”
“Clinicians should not test for substances for which results would not affect patient management or for which implications for patient management are unclear,” reads the statement. “For example, experts noted that there might be uncertainty about the clinical implications of a positive urine drug test for tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).”
There seems to be recognition that the denial of pain treatment to patients who test positive for THC may have in fact contributed to the opioid epidemic. The old philosophy discourages the use of non-opioid alternatives such as cannabis which many believe is more effective and less addictive. It can also lead desperate patients turned away from pain management to get opioids from illicit sources and ultimately make the patient more susceptible to long-term addiction risk.
Many see this latest guidance from the CDC as another step in the long road of governmental and public acceptance that cannabis may be a safer and more effective alternative to opioids in the treatment of chronic pain. This belief is supported by a study that showed there were 25% fewer opioid-related deaths in states where medical marijuana is legal.
It will be interesting to see the effect of the new guidelines on the prescribing of opioids and potential increased acceptance of cannabis as a treatment option for chronic pain. What are your thoughts on the new guidelines? We’d like to hear from you in the comments of our Fibromyalgia Awareness and Fibro CBD Facebook pages.
Options For Legally Using Cannabis To Treat Fibromyalgia: https://www.fibrotoday.com/options-for-legally-using-cannabis-to-treat-fibromyalgia/
5 Facts About CBD Oil and Fibromyalgia: https://www.fibrotoday.com/5-facts-about-cbd-oil-and-fibromyalgia/
CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/rr/rr6501e1.htm
Penn Study Shows 25 Percent Fewer Opioid-Related Deaths in States Allowing Medical Marijuana: http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2014/08/bachhuber/