Locals: CDC’s new rules for pills not a moment too soon

Published 4:30 am Thursday, March 17, 2016


The Centers for Disease Control this week issued new recommendations for prescribing opioid medications for chronic pain.

The federal government is working on urgent responses to the epidemic of overdose deaths.

The CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, United States, 2016, is designed to help primary care providers ensure the safest and most effective treatment for their patients.

A CDC release said that increased prescribing and sales of opioids – a quadrupling since 1999 – helped created and fuel the epidemic of overdoses.

“More than 40 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses, we must act now,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Overprescribing opioids – largely for chronic pain – is a key driver of America’s drug-overdose epidemic. The guideline will give physicians and patients the information they need to make more informed decisions about treatment.”

The new guideline provides recommendations on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain – pain lasting more than three months or past the time of normal tissue healing.

District Attorney Walt Merrell expressed his concerns about prescription pill abuse.

“Two-hundred forty-nine million opioid prescriptions in 2013,” he said. “And that is up from the year prior. We are the most opioid-prescribed country in the world and prescription abuse and dependency is one of the most pressing issues facing our nation. I know that many of our local doctors guard cautiously against being taken advantage of by their patients, and I commend them for their efforts, but this measure by the CDC couldn’t have come soon enough.

“Some people need legitimate pain care,” Merrell said. “Others are just looking to get high, and what we have to be especially careful about is those who start out with a legitimate need and end up as an addict.”

CDC officials said that while prescription opioids can be part of pain management, they have serious risks.

The new guideline aims to improve the safety of prescribing and curtail the harms associated with opioid use, including opioid use disorder and overdose.

The guideline also focuses on increasing the use of other effective treatments available for chronic pain, such as nonopioid medications or non-pharmacologic therapies.

The guidelines are designed to help primary care physicians determine if and when to start opioids to treat chronic pain.

Among the 12 recommendations in the guideline, three principles are key to improving patient care:

• Nonopioid therapy is preferred for chronic pain outside of active cancer, palliative and end-of-life care.

• When opioids are used, the lowest possible effective dosage should be prescribed to reduce risks of opioid use disorder and overdose.

• Providers should always exercise caution when prescribing opioids and monitor all patients closely.

Prescription pill abuse is a concern of the Covington County Children’s Policy Council Coalition as well.

The organization received a five-year $650,000 grant in 2014 through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s drug-free communities grant.

“Sadly, opioid addiction and medication misuse and abuse is an all too familiar story today,” said CCCPCC Director Susan Short. “Some even want to deny that our county has a huge alcohol and drug addiction problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 40,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2013 and about 7,000 people are treated every day for abuse or misuse of drugs.

“I appreciate the willingness of the CDC to be on the prevention side of this problem,” she said. “I’m hoping that this recommendation can make a difference in the lives of other people before it’s too late. Many in the medical community recommend improving opioid prescribing and believe that this will lower and prevent abuse.”

Prescription pill abuse is was evident last year at the county’s faith-based rehabilitation center – Crossover Ministry.

However, Director Todd Sasser said that this year, the class comprises more meth addicts than prescription pill addicts.

“Prescription pills are still a problem,” he said. “But right now, we are seeing a rise in meth abuse. For example, last year, a third or more of our clients were there for pills, but with the increase in meth that number has decreased to about a fourth.”

Sasser said this class has 18 meth addicts, three or four pill addicts and one or two there for marijuana.

Still, Sasser said addicts often use what’s available to them.

“If you can’t find meth, you use something else,” he said. “Since there was a little bit less of meth in the area last year, we saw the pill use.”

Sasser said it’s just a cycle.