The AHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) June 7 issued a new patient education resource on prescription opioids that outlines evidence-based information about the risks and side effects of the powerful painkillers.

The two-page resource is designed to encourage discussions between providers and patients about the risks, as well as alternatives to opioids. It also includes messages about how to store opioids and dispose of unused medications. The resource was developed with input from CDC experts and hospital clinical and behavioral health leaders.

“Every day, hospitals see how misuse of and overdose from prescription opioids affects patients’ families, loved ones and communities,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “We want patients to have open, honest conversations with their care providers about the best way to manage pain.”

More than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments (ED) each day for misusing prescription opioids. The AHA noted that hospitals are helping patients and communities address this serious public health problem. Examples of these efforts include adopting ED guidelines for the management of opioids; partnering with schools, law enforcement, departments of health and others for community-wide responses; and engaging peer counselors to encourage patients with substance use disorders to seek treatment.

“Patients and health care providers need to talk about the risks and benefits of prescription opioids, and this tool from AHA and CDC will guide them through these important discussions,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D.

The congressional co-chairs of the House Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse also weighed in on the importance of the new resource and efforts to combat opioid abuse.

“Confronting the epidemic of prescription drug abuse requires a holistic response, which includes additional engagement in the medical community,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who co-chairs the drug abuse caucus along with Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H.

Rogers added that “fostering constructive conversations between physicians and patients about pain management and prescription painkillers will be a critical component of this strategy, and I am pleased that the American Hospital Association worked closely with the CDC to develop this useful tool for patients.”

Kuster also commended the AHA and CDC for developing a resource that can “help reduce inadvertent overprescribing and improve pain management practices in order to cut down on addiction by allowing patients and providers to have an informed conversation about the risks and options available. Together, we can save lives by reducing the risk of addiction and overdose through education.”

The CDC March 15 issued guidance for primary care physicians prescribing opioids to adults for chronic pain in outpatient settings. Primary care physicians write nearly half of all opioid prescriptions.

The voluntary guidelines summarized scientific knowledge about the effectiveness and risks of long-term opioid therapy, and provide recommendations for when to initiate or continue opioids for chronic pain; opioid selection, dosage, duration, follow-up and discontinuation; and assessing risk and addressing harms of opioid use. They do not apply to cancer, palliative or end-of-life care.