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The CDC’s New Guidelines On Opioid Prescribing Do Not Directly Address Illicit Drugs But Could Represent A New Chapter In The Opioid Epidemic


In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines regarding the prescribing of opioid painkillers.  The 2016 guidelines encouraged doctors only to prescribe short courses of the drugs and to taper doses or discontinue the prescription after several weeks in almost all cases.  This was a stark contrast with the 1990s guidelines which took the position that the potential for pain management through long-term opioid use outweighed the risks of patients becoming dependent on opioid painkillers.  Every Floridian knows what happened next; some doctors interpreted this to mean that they had free rein to prescribe opioids by the bucketful to anyone who asked, leading to the rise of Florida’s notorious pill mills.  Of course, our more recent memory is of the resurgence of heroin and the proliferation of black-market fentanyl and counterfeit prescription drugs that flooded the streets once patients no longer had access to prescription opioids.  The CDC has issued new guidelines; these focus on the prescribing of opioids in a medical setting and do not address illicit opioid use, but if past experience serves as any example, the new guidelines will have some kind of effect beyond the doctor’s office and the pharmacy.  If you are facing charges for illegal possession of prescription opioids, contact a West Palm Beach drug offenses lawyer.

The Best-Case Scenario: No One Has to Turn to the Dark Web for Pain Medication

Christopher Jones, who is one of the authors of the new CDC guidelines, says that the guidelines are meant as advice for physicians, not for insurance companies, policymakers, or law enforcement.  The new guidelines differ from the old ones in that they encourage doctors to weigh, on a case-by-case basis, the benefits versus the risks of each opioid refill for each patient.

The ideal outcome of the new guidelines is that doctors will judge correctly when a patient does not welcome the idea of discontinuing opioids because they are the only effective way for this particular patient to manage his pain and when a patient requests more opioids because he intends to sell them illegally.  Doctors prescribing long courses of opioids is not the worst-case scenario; as we have seen before, the worst-case scenario is when patients who no longer have access to pain medication desperately turn to illegal markets, exposing themselves to untold medical and legal dangers.

The Worst-Case Scenario: A Resurgence of Pill Mills

The worst-case scenario is that the prescribing of opioids will go back to the levels where it was a decade ago, and it will be easy for anyone to buy opioids from someone who bought them from a pill mill.  It is much easier to get addicted to opioids if you take them without supervision than if you meet frequently with your doctor about your pain and your overall health.  No matter the practical outcome of the new guidelines, if you get accused of drug crimes, you have the right to representation by a lawyer.

Contact a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Attorney William Wallshein has more than 38 years of experience, including five years as a prosecutor in Palm Beach County.  Contact William Wallshein P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida to discuss your case.



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