Doctors say patients could save their lives if doctors prescribe opioid painkillers instead of heroin, morphine or fentanyl.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending doctors prescribe painkillers like oxycodone instead of opioids such as fentanyl, hydrocodone and morphine to treat severe pain.
That’s despite the fact that the opioid overdose death rate has nearly tripled in the past 10 years.
Experts say doctors who prescribe opioids should treat patients with fentanyl, not oxycodones.
Dr. Michael DeCarlo, a pain specialist and addiction specialist at the University of Minnesota, said he uses the opioid-based fentanyl treatment option because it is the best treatment option for patients with pain that is chronic and does not respond to other therapies.
“We have the best opioid-treating medication, and we’re not prescribing oxycodons, but we are using them to treat patients who are really chronically ill with chronic pain,” DeCarlos told ABC News.
“We’re seeing a big increase in the use of opioid-related painkiller use among our patients.”
Dr. David J. Shultz, a medical doctor in New York City and director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said it’s not uncommon for people to take painkillers to treat pain, but it’s important for doctors to ask themselves, “Is this a treatment for a chronic pain condition?”
Dr. Shulz said it is not uncommon to see doctors prescribe opioids to treat chronic pain.
“It is rare to see an individual take a prescription for opioids for a major medical condition,” he said.
Dr. Shutz said some people have more severe pain conditions than others, and the difference in treatment options should be considered when determining which painkiller is right for a patient.
“If someone is having a severe pain condition, and there is a significant risk of addiction, then I think the best approach is to use the opioid for that pain,” he told ABC news.
“But, again, if that’s not a risk to the patient, then a more appropriate alternative would be to use other opioid drugs.”
Dr DeCarla said some doctors are prescribing opioids to patients with chronic conditions, but he also said it can be problematic for doctors who are treating patients who don’t have a medical reason for opioid use.
Dr DeCarlos said there is evidence that opioids, such as morphine and fentanyl, are the most dangerous drugs available to people who are addicted.
“I think that’s where the problem comes in,” he added.
Dr Shultz said doctors should take into account the possibility of addiction when prescribing opioids.
“It’s important to take into consideration the risk of a person becoming addicted to opioids and their treatment needs and then make sure that that person’s opioid-free time is available and they’re getting adequate pain control,” he explained.
The CDC said doctors who administer opioids to people suffering from chronic pain should consider how the drug interacts with their underlying medical conditions, such a heart condition, diabetes or other conditions.