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Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain

Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain

When an individual is suffering from chronic pain, they may be prescribed opioids to help manage their pain levels. Opioids bind to the pain transmitters from the pain point to the brain, cutting off the pain signal which allows the user some much-needed pain relief. As helpful as opioids can be with managing chronic pain, they are also extremely addictive and dangerous. This is why it is very important to understand the guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain and how to safely use opioids to manage it.

Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain: Why?

Chronic pain is any kind of pain lasting for 3 months or longer outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care. Common types of chronic pain can include:

  • Arthritis
  • Back problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Infections
  • Major surgery and ongoing pain from surgery
  • Migraines
  • Nerve damage
  • Recovery from injuries, or lingering effects from a previous injury

Aside from the pain itself, chronic pain can cause insomnia, mood changes, fatigue, weakness, and the inability to conduct a normal, daily life. In short: it can be debilitating.

According to the CDC, 20.4% of adults had chronic pain and 7.4% of adults had chronic pain that frequently limited life or work activities in the past 3 months. Chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain both increased with age and were highest among adults aged 65 and over.

Commonly Prescribed Opioids

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Tapentadol

Safe Use of Opioids for Chronic Pain

The CDC has a three-pronged guide for safe use of opioids, assessing the client’s need, and safely discontinuing their use. These are:

  1. Determining when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain: Selection of non-pharmacologic therapy, nonopioid pharmacologic therapy, opioid therapy; Establishment of treatment goals; Discussion of risks and benefits of therapy with clients
  2. Opioid selection, dosage, duration, follow-up, and discontinuation: Selection of immediate-release or extended-release and long-acting opioids; dosage considerations; duration of treatment; considerations for follow-up and discontinuation of opioid therapy
  3. Assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use. Evaluation of risk factors for opioid-related harms and ways to mitigate client risk; review of prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) data; use of urine drug testing; Considerations for co-prescribing benzodiazepines; arrangement of treatment for opioid use disorder

Opioids for Chronic Pain: Risks and Alternatives

Following the CDC Guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain is extremely important so that the user has the lowest possible chances of becoming addicted to their prescription pain medication. If the individual does become addicted to their medication, they run the risk of a deadly overdose. They may also experience extreme negative consequences due to addiction such as problems with work and school, issues with relationships, marital problems, financial problems, legal problems, and so much more.

Signs of becoming addicted to prescription opioids for chronic pain include:

  • Using more than the prescribed dose without the knowledge of your medical team
  • Running out of pills early
  • Seeing the doctor more and more frequently to refill prescriptions
  • Having multiple doctors, pharmacies, and prescriptions
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug
  • Anxiety around the drug, such as obtaining it or the fear of when you are taken off of it


Prescription opioids aren’t the only way to manage chronic pain. If you struggle with chronic pain and are addicted to your prescription, are worried you might be, or are looking for other ways to manage your pain, there are plenty of alternatives. These include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal remedies
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Chiropractic
  • Changing your diet
  • Becoming more active
  • Physical therapy

About The Pointe Malibu Recovery Center

The most important thing about taking prescription opioids is that you have to do it correctly and under the supervision of medical professionals. Otherwise, you may run the risk of becoming addicted to them – no matter how well-intentioned you are or much you think you won’t. Opioids rewire the brain, and undoing this takes time and gentle care. Opioids should not be stopped cold-turkey, as this can lead to painful withdrawal symptoms.

Tapering off the drug — whether through your doctor or through medicated-assisted detox, therapy, and ongoing management — is the best way to get off the drugs offering the best chances for long-term recovery. Our medical team works closely with each client to minimize the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug and/or alcohol use. Nursing care and Incidental Medical Services (IMS) are available around-the-clock to monitor clients’ status, provide relief from withdrawal symptoms, and ensure clients’ safety. Our medical approach utilizes medications to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and vastly diminishes any risk of life-threatening dangers during stabilization.

If you feel as if you may be addicted to your prescription opioids, or know someone who is, we can help. At The Pointe Malibu Recovery Center, we provide recovery solutions for drug and alcohol addiction, process addictions, mental health issues including depression and anxiety, co-occurring disorders, and chronic pain addictions. Our rehab treatment programs are proven effective, evidence-based solutions. We provide world-class medical and clinical treatment with a large on-site staff of professionals.

If you’re ready to end the cycle of drugs, alcohol, or addiction threatening your career, family, and well-being, we’re here to help. We understand these problems can be more complex for the affluent, executive, and professional classes. The Pointe Malibu Recovery Center was established specifically for you.

For more information, visit our website.