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HHS Issues Opioid Pain Management Guidance for Clinicians

New Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) guidance advises clinicians on reducing or ending long-term opioid prescriptions for patients with chronic pain.

HHS recognizes the benefits of opioid-based pain management for patients with chronic pain but warns of the potential patient harm if the opioid therapy is not reduced or ended in a deliberate way. The agency also notes that nonopioid treatments should be part of a patient’s pain management plan as long as clinicians consider a patient’s diagnosis, overall needs, and circumstances.

The guidance, which compiles existing peer-reviewed guidelines and practices, seeks to reduce the risk of substance use disorder while providing effective pain management for chronic pain patients. Topics covered include:

  • risk factors associated with a rapid reduction in opioid painkillers;
  • patient factors that may signal a need to reduce or end opioid painkiller prescribing;
  • methods to reduce opioid painkiller prescribing for a patient;
  • the importance of shared decisionmaking with patients;
  • how to identify and mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms; and
  • how to ensure patients receive appropriate, concurrent behavioral health support.

America’s Essential Hospitals has established a resource page for combating the opioid epidemic and a tracker highlighting funding opportunities available to essential hospitals under the SUPPORT Act. Members also can find more information about state-level developments on our State Action opioid resource page.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.


About the Author

Zina Gontscharow is a former senior policy analyst for America's Essential Hospitals.

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