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CDC to Revise Opioid Guidelines for Those With Chronic Pain

Updated on October 20, 2015

According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, there are around 100 million people in the country who suffer from chronic pain (1). Many of these people take opioids to help manage the pain, but due to the current guidelines being controversial, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has decided that it’s time to make some revisions. This effort is a move that is meant to help combat the issues associated with opioid abuse, overuse, and overdose.

The CDC reports that 259 million opioid prescriptions are filled per year, which represents a 300 percent increase since 1999, although the amount of pain that people report having has not gone up. They estimate that around 2 million Americans abuse or are dependent on prescription drugs, and around 16,000 people die each year in the country due to opioid-related overdoses (2).

The prescription drug abuse and overdose issue has moved to the center stage, prompting the CDC to seek ways to help reduce those numbers. Its goal in revising the guidelines is to help provide people with a safer and effective way to help manage their pain, but yet also bring about a reduction in the misuse, abuse, and overdoses that are taking place each year.

The guideline revisions are for those suffering from non-cancer chronic pain and do not include end-of-life care. The CDC draft, which will be finalized in January 2016, focuses on determining when to initiate or continue opioids, selection, dosage, duration, and discontinuation, as well as assessing the risks of taking them. Additionally, the draft guidelines suggest non-pharmacologic therapy and non-opioid pharmacologic therapy.

While working on finalizing the guidelines that will be released, the draft the CDC has issued has sparked some controversy. Some advocacy groups have voiced their concerns over the guidelines in that they may make it difficult for patients to effectively manage their chronic pain, and that the guidelines are being devised using poor evidence and that the process lacks transparency(3). In creating the new guidelines, the CDC invited a variety of groups to attend a webinar on the issue, including those representing physicians, insurance companies, pharmacists, and various advocacy groups.

Stay tuned for the final guidelines to be released in January, when we will all see how they may impact those suffering from non-cancer chronic pain.


1. American Academy of Pain Medicine. Facts and Figures on Pain. <>

2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Draft CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opiods for Chronic Pain. <>

3. Cancer Action Network. CDC Opioid Guidelines Process Relies on Poor Evidence, Lacks Transparency. <>


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