FDA Releases Important Changes to Opioid Policies

FDA Releases Important Changes to Opioid Policies

RSoNM2Last month, a special FDA report on prescription opioid abuse appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine [1]. None of us want to be in pain, our physicians do not want us to be in pain; they, and we, do everything possible to mitigate it. Severe pain often calls for the big guns: oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, codeine, morphine. If our pain is acute, and short lived, these opioids work very well. But for those with chronic pain requiring long-term treatment, this pain management strategy can cause more harm than good, as these drugs are highly addictive.


RSoNM1Opioid abuse in the US is nearing epidemic proportions. Nearly 100 million Americans live with significant physical pain from injuries, illnesses, age-related usage problems and medical procedures. Short-term skillful use of opioids for pain management is not at issue, and 90% of these pain patients fall into the acute category. But for those with chronic pain, opioid use can evolve into abuse, almost without realizing it. The number of opioid prescriptions now written in the US per year is nearly equal to the number of adults in the US population; a staggering statistic [2]. In 2014, there were nearly 19,000 deaths from opioid overdoses, which is higher than the annual number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents [3]. There must be a more sustainable, non-addictive way to treat chronic pain, for every patient, regardless of age. 

Certainly, non-addictive drugs such as Neurontin, Lyrica, Savella, Cymbalta, even nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are an option for some people; but these are not always effective and can have side effects, sometimes significant ones. Developing more effective, safer therapies for pain management should be a priority.

Chronic pain management is a complex problem that requires complex, out of the box, solutions. These take time to figure out. Physician and patient education can help the doctor patient team to create more robust pain management strategies. Over the last decade, non-pharmacologic pain management strategies have become more widely used to treat chronic pain. Unfortunately, opioids are still widely prescribed, and due to their addictive properties, are often abused, leaving patients in a worse situation than at beginning. There are, however, professionals that can help individuals overcome their opioid addiction. Recovery Services is the largest, most effective addiction treatment organization in the State of New Mexico. Contact us today to see how we can help you or your loved one overcome their opioid addiction.

Pain management is a complex problem, but we need not die from it.



  1. Califf RM1, Woodcock J, Ostroff S. A Proactive Response to Prescription Opioid Abuse. N Engl J Med. 2016 Feb 4. [Epub ahead of print]
  1. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/opioid-prescribing
  1. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html
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