In response to a national opiate overdose crisis throughout the United States the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has mandated that all producers of opiate medications significantly drop production of all opiates throughout the country. This decision is going to have dramatic effects on those who suffer from chronic pain and for those who are opiate dependent for pain management. Here is all you need to know about the direction of pain management.

DEA Decides To Reduce Opiate Production

Opiate medications are a class of medications used to treat pain. They include medications like norco, percocet, morphine, dilaudid, oxycodone, and fentanyl, among others. Recently, the DEA decided to mandate that all producers of opiate medications drastically reduce the amount of drugs that they produce. In 2017 opiate medications were reduced by 25 percent. In 2018, the DEA is requiring that opiate medication manufacturers reduce their production by an additional 20 percent. This comes out to be a 45 percent reduction of opiate like medications in two years (2).

Behind Reducing Opiate Production

The reduction in opiate like medications is based off of several reasons, and here are just a few of them (1):

  • Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death in the United States with opiate like medications in the lead of this stat.
  • From 1999-2008, overdose death rates, sales and substance use disorder treatment admissions related to prescription pain relievers have increased at the same rate.
  • The overdose death rate in 2008 is four times of what it was in 1999.
  • Sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 are four times of what they were in 1999.
  • Four out of five heroin users started out misusing prescription pain killers.
  • In 2012, enough prescriptions were written for opioids to give more than every person in the United States their own bottle of pills.

Needless, to say, there are obviously some alarming statistics when it comes to the over-prescribing of opiate like medications.

What Reducing Opiate Production Means For Patients

Hospitals and clinics across the country are changing the way that pain medications are prescribed to patients. Some hospitals are even facing shortages of certain medications. For example, the hospital I work at had run out of dilaudid at one point. Morphine doses were being used instead. That was until, we ran out of morphine and finally got a shipment in of dilaudid. So, clearly, in light of a 45 percent decrease in supply, hospitals are going to struggle keeping up with demand. Clinics may very well be in the same position. So here’s what this means for you as a patient:

  • You’re probably going to be in more pain as the way that the frequency of pain medication prescribing is going to decrease.
  • Those patients that take higher doses of opioid narcotics are likely going to have to look at reductions in their doses. This is going to be tough for those that are used to certain doses. The body builds up tolerance over time, leading to higher doses of medications.
  • Pain management is going to have to include different methods aside from narcotics to control pain. These different methods might include anti-inflammatory medications, Tylenol, muscle relaxants, aromatherapy, acupuncture, physical therapy, and massage therapy to just name a few.
  • For those patients suffering from chronic pain caused by cancer or other chronic sources, marijuana or THC might actually become a contender for pain management in the future.
  • Patients are going to have to be more realistic. A 10/10 on the pain scale means that the pain you’re experiencing is close to the worst pain that you’ve ever experienced in your entire life. However, I can tell you from my experience, that if you’re sitting up in bed, smiling, and texting on a cell phone, you’re not in 10/10 on the pain scale. Patients are going to have to learn to be more honest with their providers on what their pain actually is.
  • Patients are going to have to come to the understanding that providers aren’t going to be able to completely take away their pain and be open to additional pain management options.

Looking Into The Future Of Pain Management After Pain Medication Reduction

The future of pain management is going to be unpredictable for the near future as health care providers learn how to make patients comfortable with less narcotics. Pain management in the acute care setting such as emergency rooms and hospitals likely won’t have too many drastic changes. But managing pain in an outpatient setting is going to require more cooperation and an open mind from both the providers and the patients.

What does this opiate medication reduction mean to you and have you had any experiences in changes with your pain management yet? 

Sources:

1. https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf

2. http://www.pharmacist.com/article/dea-mandates-reduction-opioid-manufacturing-2018