The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the federal organization responsible for monitoring, researching, and publishing information about the various health threats that our country faces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also responsible for tabulating and publishing various response tactics, prevention approaches, and legislative proposals for curbing such health threats.
The CDC is a federal agency created with the intention of averting the health crisis in the United States. The CDC was formed in 1946 and is based in Atlanta. The organization is managed by the Department of Health and Human Services and works with partner programs on local, state, and national levels to implement solutions and resolutions to various health problems faced in this country. More recently, the CDC has made huge efforts to curb substance abuse in the U.S., particularly as pertains to opioid abuse. One of the most recent changes this group made was to issue thorough and stringent prescribing guidelines for doctors.
As the opioid overdose death count capped thirty-thousand deaths in 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drafted firm policy regarding how U.S. doctors prescribe such substances. This was done in an effort to curb rampant over-prescribing of addictive and potentially harmful opioid drugs.
In early 2016, the CDC began to work on the “CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain”. In this document, the CDC made recommendations that differed incredibly from the current doctor prescribing habits. Nearly two million Americans aged twelve and older are addicted to opioids as of a 2014 study, and the CDC felt it was necessary to curb this problem by stopping at its source, e.g. doctor’s offices.
The CDC’s guidelines fell under three, major categories. These were:
In the first category, the CDC strongly encourages doctors to prescribe opioid drugs less. The problem here is that doctors are prescribing powerful, mind-altering and highly addictive opioid drugs for conditions like back pain and dental pain. The CDC in their guidelines encourages doctors to prescribe opioids much less and to encourage doctors to only prescribe painkillers when all other non-addictive methods for treating pain have been attempted.
In the second category, the CDC encourages doctors to change their prescribing habits. This entire section of the guidelines encourages doctors when they do have to prescribe these drugs, to instead prescribe lower dosages of them and for shorter durations. The CDC recommends that doctors only prescribe pain drugs for three to seven days, not two to four weeks as is the current norm.
In the third category of the guidelines, the CDC insists that risk assessment must be far more stringent. The CDC states that prescription opioids are extremely over-prescribed in this country, to the point where patients who do not even need high strength opioid drugs are being put on them. This section of the guidelines also makes it clear that doctors need to screen for patients who are already self-medicating on opioids. The CDC also encourages doctors to check for potential risk of future substance abuse and to take that into account.
The CDC made a strong move in the right direction by publishing these guidelines. They were even more stringent than the guidelines published in previous years. For example, the CDC changed their publishing guidelines in the 2016 publication to include much lower recommended dosages for almost all pain scenarios. The new recommendations also focus on discontinuing opioids at an earlier time than in previous recommendations in an attempt to avoid an inception of chemical dependence to the prescription.
This is a start in the right direction, but it is just that, a start. There is a lot of work to be done and progress to be made to actually get doctors to follow prescribing guidelines. The stumbling block here is that the CDC cannot actually force doctors to follow the CDC guidelines. They can only recommend their guidelines to doctors and show evidence and study publications that prove their guidelines are the correct ones to follow.
To really change the opioid epidemic for the better, we will have to take this a step further. We will actually have to change the way we address our own pain problems. We need to commit ourselves to staying away from potentially addictive and dangerous pain pills. We need to commit ourselves to exploring holistic alternatives to pain management. We need to commit ourselves to finding resolutions to pain problems that do not create risk for a life-threatening addiction.
If we are able to remove the demand for these drugs, their interest and use will eventually cease and pharmaceutical companies will not make them in such outrageous abundance as they have been. The CDC’s 2016 guidelines are a good start, but they are not the end of this movement by any means.