Hope for chronic pain patients with new CDC guidelines

In a rare moment of compassion, the CDC has released new guidelines for doctors to use when prescribing opiates, which are derived from poppies, and opioids, which are partially or fully synthetic.  This is good news for chronic pain patients because the old guidelines made it very difficult to get effective pain relief.  There was so much concern over drug addiction and drug overdoses that, apparently, the CDC decided no one should be taking narcotics, and it issued guidelines that doctors used as an excuse not to prescribe such painkillers.  If it weren't for the little matter of people in severe pain wanting relief, the CDC's plan might have worked.

The law of unintended consequences quickly kicked in.  Non-cancer patients can still have torturous pain that diminishes their quality of life.  Without effective pain treatment, such patients may find it difficult to continue working and encounter financial hardship as well as physical suffering.  Seventy-nine percent of pain patients are dissatisfied with their treatment.  Patient testimonies of how pain has affected their lives abound, as well as tips on how to talk to doctors to get them to take you seriously and not see you as an addict seeking a new drug supplier.

Image: Pain by freepik.

The numeric pain scale itself has come under fire, particularly because doctors don't qualify it.  Asking a patient to rate his pain on a scale of one to ten is vague.  It would be better to ask a patient to explain his pain and how tolerable it is, and best of all if the doctors would actually listen to their patients.  It certainly is a conundrum that, in the age of modern medicine and cutting-edge technology, the one thing that has stopped working is the doctor's ear, but I digress.

The new CDC guidelines propose that doctors evaluate their patients more carefully, that they do not have arbitrary cut-off times for prescribing opiates or opioids, and that individualized plans be formulated for chronic pain patients.  The new guidelines also contain stronger language relating to the fact that they are only guidelines, and not hard and fast rules that must be complied with.

Chronic pain patients are still worried they won't be able to get the drugs they need to live a productive life, but the new guidelines are a step in the right direction.  At the very least, there is now recognition of the harm the old guidelines caused to chronic pain patients.

Pandra Selivanov is the author of Future Slave, a story about a 21st-century black teenager who goes back in time and becomes a slave in the Old South. 

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