Long-acting painkillers are called opioids, which is a prescription pain medication for severe and chronic pain from conditions like cancer. There has been an increase of opioid use for chronic non-cancer related pain (CNCP) such as chronic arthritis or back pain, which has been questioned due to insufficient evidence for long-term benefits. Opioids work by controlling and limiting the pain messages that is received by the brain. While such medications can be helpful for pain management if used according to a doctor’s recommendations, studies in the last few years address serious issues like addiction and overdose.
For instance, teenagers are statistically more likely to have recreationally taken prescription painkillers before street drugs. Millions of Americans take opioids that are prescribed to their friends or family members, which can result in fatal overdoses. In 2011, a CDC study reported a 4x increase in prescribed painkillers, matched by a 4x increase in painkiller-related deaths. The number of people asking for opioid prescriptions went up by 6x.
The FDA made an official decision to change the labels on opioid painkillers in September, 2013. One of the major reasons is safety; to make sure the information on medication is educational and clear on professional recommendations. The new labels emphasize that opioid drugs are meant to be a final resort for pain management, only if other treatment options are insufficient. They also warn that addiction is a risk even if following exact dosage recommendations. The updated labels will also include a warning on opioid use during pregnancy and nursing periods.
These label changes are ultimately to educate both users and manufacturers of prescription painkillers, as well as to encourage safety, informed choices, and further study.