US urges shared decisions with pain patients taking opioids

U.S. health officials are again warning doctors against abandoning chronic pain patients by abruptly stopping their opioid prescriptions.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead urged doctors to share such decisions with patients. The agency Thursday published steps for doctors in a six-page guide and an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the 1990s, overprescribing started the first wave of the nation’s overdose crisis. Later, insurers and hospitals misinterpreted cautions about opioids in ways that harmed some patients. Some turned to street drugs such as heroin or fentanyl after doctors stopped prescribing.

Health officials say slow, voluntary reductions of opioid doses can improve quality of life without worsening pain. Tapering the drugs slowly can take months or years.

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