One of the most common reasons for getting Social Security disability benefits is chronic pain. This can arise following an accident or an injury. Other times, chronic pain is a result of such long-term conditions as arthritis or neuropathy. In the recent past, doctors, particularly those who run pain clinics, have been dispensing powerful medications, including opioids, without many limitations. That may be changing.
Regulations Gone Too Far?
A new article in the USA Today documents how some doctors are choosing to stop writing prescriptions for opioids. The reason? They are afraid of running afoul of both scientific recommendations and state laws. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidelines to doctors,
suggesting that they taper their use of opioids to treat chronic pain. Many patients feel that the doctors went too far in cutting back. The CDC notice and issued new guidelines in 2019, saying that doctors should not automatically reduce the use of opioids where such patients as those with cancer and other diseases need them.
Doctors Have Other Reasons To Fear Writing Pain Prescriptions
Even with the change in the CDC recommendations, doctors were slow to resume prescribing opioids. Doses went from 46 billion in 2016 to 32 billion in 2018. Doctors may be slow to return to earlier levels of opioid usage because several states have passed laws that limit how many pills a doctor can provide. Some of these laws mandate that a patient can only have a 3-5 day supply and then must return to get more.
Finally, some doctors are very worried about contributing to their patient's addiction to pain killers. There are countless stories of people overdosing and even dying from opioids. These outcomes could lead to regulators fining doctors and to patients or their families suing doctors.
Stuck In The Middle
Against this backdrop, it is easy to see why doctors have cut back on dispensing opioids. In the long run, this will probably be a good thing. But, for those patients who need large amounts of pain killers right now, they are caught in a bind with no easy solution in sight.
Has your doctor reduced your pain pill prescription? Cut you off completely? Let me know.