Opioids for Pain Management: Guideline Topline for Primary Care


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new recommendations for clinicians on managing acute (duration of <1 month), subacute (1-3 months), and chronic (>3 months) pain in adults. The new guidance replaces the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain released in 2016, which was interpreted by the health care community as imposing strict opioid dose and duration limits and was misapplied by some organizations, bringing outcry from persons with chronic pain and their advocates and prompting guideline authors to clarify their recommendations in 2019.

The 2022 guidance addresses 4 key areas: determining whether to initiate opioids for pain; selecting opioids and determining opioid dosages; deciding duration of initial opioid prescription and conducting follow-up; and assessing risk and addressing potential harms of opioid use. Below, find the 12 recommendations at-a-glance grouped into these 4 areas.

Reference: Dowell D, Ragan KR, Jones CM, Baldwin GT, Chou R. CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain — United States, 2022. MMWR Recomm Rep 2022;71(No. RR-3):1–95. DOI:

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