Federal Views Diverge on Proper Use of Painkillers

The recent conversation regarding the abuse of prescription drugs that provide pain relief has some federal government officials calling this epidemic a "growing national crisis". While prescriptions such as Vicodin, OxyContin and other opioid drugs help patients with chronic pain, the White House is asking doctors to curtail their use of prescription opioids.

How do you have a conversation about prescription drugs that provide critical pain relief to millions of Americans yet also cause more fatal overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined? The answer is: It depends.

Different parts of the federal government describe the problem — and potential solutions — of abuse with Vicodin, OxyContin and other opioid drugs in different terms.

The White House has called opioid abuse an "epidemic" and a "growing national crisis" that causes more than 16,500 deaths per year. Meanwhile, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a top-ranking Drug Enforcement Administration official have called on doctors to dramatically scale back their use of prescription opioids.

But while Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg acknowledged that opioids are overprescribed in an interview with the Associated Press, she again emphasized the importance of keeping the drugs accessible to Americans with chronic pain — a group she cites as roughly 100 million, or about 40 percent of U.S. adults.

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Source: Modern Healthcare