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Letter from Our Physicians: Responsible Use of Opioids in Managing Chronic Pain

Dear Patients,

As you may have seen in recent headline news, the CDC has published guidelines for prescribing opioids for managing chronic pain. Those guidelines, when taken in isolation or out of context for your particular medical treatment plan, may be a source of confusion regarding the current safety of you or your loved ones care.

The collective goal of our board-certified pain specialists at NSPC is to relieve pain, maximize function and improve quality of life. While our focus remains on minimally invasive interventional-oriented techniques, we remain steadfast that when determined appropriate by your treatment team, that opioid medications among a host of many available adjunct tools in a multimodal approach can more effectively and comprehensively treat pain.

We also advocate that when opioid medications are prescribed, that it be done so in the safest and most responsible way possible. We are cognizant of the responsibility of prescribing pain medications given the inherent risks of dependency and abuse by diversion of these medications in the community at large. We rely on comprehensive assessments to determine whether long-term opioid therapy is an appropriate option, especially in treating patients with chronic non-cancer related pain. Further, when utilized, we advocate the use of extended-release or long-acting opioid medications because of their selective advantages including but not limited to: more consistent blood concentrations with better around the clock coverage, improved nighttime pain control, reduced number of pill counts per month and abuse-deterrent technologies that improve safety when misplaced or stolen medications are diverted into the general community.

We agree with the CDC conclusion that over-utilization of opioids and the escalating numbers of overdose, addiction, and accidental death is a public health concern. As medical practitioners, it is our obligation to minimize all possible potential for these bad outcomes and to educate our patients.

Finally, as interventional pain management physicians, we believe that when treating acute or chronic pain, the primary goal is to determine the exact source and address it with more targeted therapies. We encourage a multimodal approach including non-opioid pharmacological therapy, exercise, relative rest and targeted injections to help improve functionality and alleviate pain. When appropriate, opioids at responsible doses can be an effective supplemental management tool. We would suggest that earlier referral to an experienced pain provider before the initiation of opioids may help reduce the identified epidemic of over-utilization.

We support the premise that more education of providers and patients is warranted and would go a long way in helping everyone achieve the ultimate goal of safer and more effective patient care for you and all your loved ones.

Best in Health,

NSPC Providers