Although many Americans suffer from undertreated pain, the regulartory and legal environment for the use of opioids in pain relief is currently in a state of flux. The federal government's efforts to curb drug abuse have complicated the use of opioids for pain relief. Recent actions by the US Drug Enforcement Agency have added to an atmosphere of mistrust and confusion and have increased physician concerns about increased scrutiny and legal, regulatory, or administrative sanctions. Despite a disturbing shitf in regulatory authority over opioid analgesics away from health agencies and toward law enforcement agencies, recent state policies and guidelines from national medical organizations are playing an important role in promoting the use of opioids for pain treatment and helping to reduce practitioners' concerns over regulatory oversight. Current and future trends concerning the legal and regulatory aspects of chronic opioid treatment are discussed in this article.
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