The NCSL Blog

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By Kate Blackman and Karmen Hanson

Abuse and overdose of prescription opioids has reached new levels over the past decade or so, now claiming more than 40 lives each day on average. With consequences for individuals, communities and states, leaders are grasping for solutions to curtail the growing problem.

Pile of pillsThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) brought additional strategies to the table on March 15, with the release of its Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. The guideline includes 12 recommendations targeted toward primary care providers, including suggestions for using preferred nonopioid therapies, starting with the lowest effective dose if opioids are used and regularly following up with patients.

The guideline did elicit some controversy, including from groups concerned about ensuring access to safe pain management for those who need it. However, the CDC also states that patients with chronic pain should have this access, and the recommendations’ scope addresses opioid prescribing for chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative and end-of-life care.

While the CDC’s guideline is a set of voluntary recommendations, some states have begun taking action related to prescribing. For example, Massachusetts last week passed a comprehensive bill on substance abuse that included opioid prescribing limits.

For other state decision makers, the CDC’s guideline may provide additional context for understanding ways to support healthcare providers in opioid prescribing and reducing opioid misuse, abuse and overdose from these drugs. 

Find out more about state legislation to prevent prescription drug abuse and overdose, including prescription drug monitoring programs, rescue drugs and other efforts, through NCSL’s interactive Injury and Violence Prevention database and Web page on naloxone and Good Samaritan laws.

Kate Blackman and Karmen Hansen cover public health issues in NCSL’s Health program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.