CDC issues new guidelines on pain pills

Posted at 5:59 PM, Mar 16, 2016
The CDC is taking major steps to battle the worst public health crisis in decades.  The agency is issuing new guidelines for how painkillers should be prescribed.
They go by several names from Oxycontin to Percocet and Vicodin:  all are considered opioid medications.
While they can successfully be used to treat pain, up to a fourth of people prescribed them get addicted, and 40 people die from pill overdoses every day.
"It's a very dangerous class of drugs because you never know whether you're taking a prescription pill or you're taking heroin, when it's going to be the last time, there's no telling when your body's just going to say you've had enough," said Robin Piper, CEO and clinical director at the Turning Point of Tampa.
A woman who we'll call Jill, knows she's lucky to be alive.  She abused pills like these for four years before finally getting help.
"I was kind of using them to party, go out in the evenings and it snowballed pretty quickly," said Jill.
Jill never had pain, but through people she knew, getting her hands on pain pills, was easy.
"They'd have three different doctors at a time with no problem circulating and continuing to get more," Jill said.
While the government's been cracking down on doctor shopping and pill mills, a lot of people still get hooked after starting with a legitimate prescription.  That's why the CDC is issuing new guidelines on opioids.
It recommends doctors don't use these pills first in treating pain.  And following surgeries or injuries, not more than a week's worth of meds should be prescribed, unless the patient is facing a terminal illness.  Those short-term doses are aimed at helping stop people from getting addicted in the first place.
"As a community what we need to do is start treating the addict, not keeping them addicted, not keeping them on another substance, but treating the addict and teaching them how to cope with life...And if they have legitimate, physical pain, to have them deal with that pain in a holistic fashion without just prescribing a pill to make it go away," said Piper.
You can read more about the CDC's new guidelines in the Journal of American Medicine.