With the current nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse, dependence, and fatalities, clinicians are being asked by federal agencies and professional societies to control their prescribing of narcotic medications for pain. Federal guidelines emphasize tapering, discontinuing, and limiting initiation of these drugs except in provision of end-of-life care.1 Reducing reliance on opioids, however, is a massive task. According to one estimate, more than 650 000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed each day in the United States.2 Unless the nation develops an increased tolerance to chronic pain, reduction in opioid prescribing leaves a vacuum that will be filled with other therapies.
Choo EK, Feldstein Ewing SW, Lovejoy TI. Opioids Out, Cannabis InNegotiating the Unknowns in Patient Care for Chronic Pain. JAMA. 2016;316(17):1763-1764. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.13677