Understanding CDC’s proposed pain treatment guidelines

New pain-treatment guidelines proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include eliminating recommended dose limits for some patients who suffer from chronic pain. The guidelines also encourage non-opioid treatments as a first option, when possible.

“What the CDC has recommended is an individualized weighing of risks and benefits of opioid therapy,” said Dr. Mark Sullivan, an attending physician at the Center for Pain Relief at UW Medical Center.

The newly proposed recommendations aim to revise existing guidelines originally issued by the CDC in 2016. Sullivan, who helped to develop Washington state’s opioid treatment guidelines, says concerns about rigid implementation of dosing guidance, emerging research on the effects of opioids, and the opioid epidemic are driving the new recommendations.

The CDC is trying to make the use of opioids for pain control more responsive to the needs of individual patients while remaining safe, he said.

The CDC characterizes the guidelines as a “clinical tool” to empower patient-centered decisions for safe, effective pain care – not inflexible rules. The health agency is seeking public comment on the proposed guidelines through April 11. An official update of the guidelines is expected later this year.

Access broadcast-ready video assets on pain treatment and opioids.

UW Medicine