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New Oregon Guidelines Try To Dial Back Opioid Prescriptions

Kristian Foden-Vencil

The Oregon Health Authority has published new guidelines for prescribing opioids.

The state published opioid guidelines a couple of years ago. But those dealt largely with people who were already on the drug and needed to be weaned off.

The new guidelines address people in short-term pain, like for the extraction of a wisdom tooth.

The guidelines recommend for example, that instead of getting 30 days worth of pills for a tooth extraction, patients should get three days' worth.

State health officer Dr. Katrina Hedberg, said the same is true for sports injuries and surgical pain.

“The shorter period of time that people can be on opioids for the lowest dose, means less likelihood that they become chronically dependent on opioids,” Hedberg said.

The guidelines are important because sports injuries and wisdom teeth extractions are often the first time young people are exposed to opioids.

"While opioids are effective medications in acute pain management, many people do not use all of the pills that are prescribed by their doctors after an acute event," Hedberg said.

"What this tells us is that patients may not need as many pills as we think, and other forms of pain management may be safer and just as effective. It also tells us that there are many excess pills sitting in medicine cabinets, which could be misused or stolen."

On average, five Oregonians die each week from opioid-related overdoses, according to OHA.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.