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Position Statements

Policy for the use of opioids for the treatment of pain

 Categories:  Clinical Practice, Prescribing   Adopted: Sep 1996  | Amended: Jan 2017  Print Friendly Version  |   Share this item

The Board believes that a fundamental component of good medical practice includes the appropriate evaluation and management of pain. Responsibly prescribed opioid medications may help North Carolina licensees treat their patients’ pain safely and effectively, and improve their quality of life. It is the duty of any licensee prescribing opioid medications to be knowledgeable of both the therapeutic benefits, risks, and potential harm associated with opioid treatment. The Board expects any licensee prescribing opioids for the treatment of pain to provide diagnoses, treatments, and medical record documentation that are consistent with the standard of care in North Carolina. The Board notes that a failure to provide opioid treatment consistent with the standard of care in North Carolina may subject a licensee to disciplinary action by the Board.

The Board has previously attempted to provide guidance regarding opioid treatment of pain to its licensees through guidance documents generated and maintained by the Board. However, in order to provide its licensees with guidance that reflects the most current medical and scientific research and recommended practices, the Board has decided to adopt and endorse the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain written and maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). While these guidelines do not constitute regulations or necessarily state the standard of care in North Carolina in every context, the Board’s believes that these guidelines can provide useful information to licensees related to the appropriate considerations to be made prior to and during treatment plans involving opioids.

The CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/rr/rr6501e1.htm In addition to its Guideline, the CDC has also provided a number of useful clinician resources related to opioid treatment of pain covering topics such as Nonopioid Treatments, Assessing Benefits and Harms, Calculating Dosage, and Tapering. These documents can be found at the following link: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/prescribing/resources.html

It is the Board’s hope that familiarity with the concepts included in the documents above will help licensees provide safe and effective care for their North Carolina patients.

NEW: CDC has created a four-page visual summary of its opioid prescribing guidelines. Click here to view it.