By  Karoun Demirjian and Lenny Bernstein for The Washington Post. With no end to the nation’s opioid crisis in sight, the federal government on Tuesday issued final recommendations that urge doctors to use more caution and consider alternatives before they prescribe highly addictive narcotic painkillers.

This first national guidance on the subject is nonbinding, and doctors cannot be punished for failing to comply. But the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued the guidelines, said the effort was critical to bringing about “a culture shift for patients and doctors.”

“We are waking up as a society to the fact that these are dangerous drugs,” Director Tom Frieden said in an interview. “Starting a patient on opiates is a momentous decision, and it should only be done if the patient and the doctor have a full understanding of the substantial risks involved.”

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