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American Society for Action on Pain

Author: Clark-H-W. Sees-K-L.

Title: Opioids, chronic pain, and the law.

Source: J-Pain-Symptom-Manage. 1993 Jul. 8(5). P 297-305.


Abstract: As the United States continues its "War on Drugs," physicians who prescribe opioids for the purpose of pain control must recognize that legal issues are an important part of the prescription process. Physicians who do not correctly prescribe opioids may mark their patients as drug abusers and themselves as misprescribers. Efforts are under way to characterize appropriately the conditions under which opioids should be prescribed for the management of pain. California and Texas have passed intractable pain laws, which permit the prescribing of opioid medication for chronic pain patients. These laws were necessary because claims were made against prescribers who legitimately administered opioids to chronic pain patients. Physicians must be aware that once a patient has been diagnosed an addict, it is not legal to prescribe opioids for the purpose of maintaining or detoxifying that patient; treatment of pain is still permissible, however. It is clear that new standards of care must be developed to reduce the liability of legitimate prescribers from sanctions in either criminal or civil settings. With new standards of care, prescriptions for opioids written in good faith for the treatment of pain should survive legal scrutiny.