AURORA, Colo. -- The Centers for Disease Control released new guidelines for opioid prescriptions Tuesday in an effort to fight the disturbing trend of abuse and prescription drug deaths.
The move is a first in the medical world, with the CDC telling doctors to stop writing opioid prescriptions for patients, when possible. The new recommendation is "start low, go slow."
It's no secret opioids, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are highly addictive. But, the CDC seems to think even doctors need a reminder.
"This is really the first time CDC has waded into the water of giving prescribers advice on how to practice medicine," said Robert Valuck, PhD, RPh, a professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. "So, that's very controversial."
Primary care physicians prescribe almost half of all opiates. There is no legal obligation for them to follow the new recommendation.
"They are not laws and they are not regulations, so doctors don't have to do it," said Valuck. "But, the guidelines kind of become standard of practice."
Valuck, who coordinates the Colorado Consortium and has testified in front of Congress about prescription drugs, says he agrees that opiates are only safe to take for a few days before patients can develop an addiction.
Right now, forty Americans die from opioid overdoses every day, and nearly two million people abuse the drugs or are dependent on them.
Valuck says opioids are not effective for all pain, and patients who are prescribed them should not expect pain to go away entirely. He advises the public to ask doctors about alternatives before filling an opioid prescription.
There are some exceptions in the new CDC guidelines, mainly for cancer treatments and end-of-life care.