Opioid pain relievers are once again in the news, with the American Academy of Neurology concerned over the widespread long-term use among non-cancer pain patients. The group released their new guidelines covering the medication class that includes morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl.

The crux of the their guidelines is that the risks associated with opioid use far outweigh any benefits patients receive. This includes using the medication to treat chronic headaches, lower back pain and fibromyalgia.

In the Academy’s release, Dr. Gary Franklin, of the University of Washington in Seattle, talked about the risks associated with long-term opioid use.

“More than 100,000 people have died from prescription opioid use since policies changed in the late 1990s to allow much more liberal long-term use.”

“There have been more deaths from prescription opioids in the most vulnerable young to middle-aged groups than from firearms and car accidents,” he added. “Doctors, states, institutions and patients need to work together to stop this epidemic.”

The statement is being published in the September 30 edition of the journal Neurology. It points out that 50 percent of patients that start taking opioid medication end up on the drugs long-term. The American Academy of Neurology is laying out possible new guidelines for prescribing the drugs.

Suggestions floated include screening for depression and past drug abuse, random drug screenings and creating an opioid treatment agreement with the patient. They also suggest that pain management specialists be sought if the intake of the patient exceeds 80 to 120 milligrams as a daily dosage.

Some pain management clinics already implement these measures, and it would serve the patient and doctor if these policies were broadly adopted.

Read the full statement piece here.

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