The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established new opioid prescribing guidelines last year, and recommended that patients with a history of long-term of opioid use be weaned and tapered off these painkillers. A new study published this month in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine supports this idea, establishing that patients with chronic pain who taper off opioid doses can help alleviate their chronic pain and have a better quality of life without the drugs. So how can tapering opioid doses alleviate chronic pain?
100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Unfortunately, for many patients with with chronic pain, the typical treatment regimen has consisted of addictive painkillers. It’s known that long-term use of narcotic opioid medications increases the risk of dependency and overdose, and the country is currently in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic, which claimed the lives of more than 33,000 Americans in 2015, half of which were associated with opioid prescription drugs.
This new research suggests that tapering or reducing the dose of opioid painkillers may actually help improve pain and function, and improve quality of life in long-term users.
More than 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers, and almost 600,000 are addicted to heroin, according to recent federal data.