Most Doctors Prescribe More Opioid Painkillers Than Recommended by Government

    Almost all physicians who write prescriptions for opioid painkillers exceed the federally recommended three-day dosage limit, according to a survey by the National Safety Council.

    The survey found 99 percent of doctors exceed the three-day limit. Almost one-quarter of doctors prescribe opioids for a month, HealthDay reports.

    “Opioids do not kill pain. They kill people,” Dr. Donald Teater, a medical advisor at the National Safety Council said in a news release. “Doctors are well-intentioned and want to help their patients, but these findings are further proof that we need more education and training if we want to treat pain most effectively.”

    While almost 85 percent of doctors screen for signs of prior opioid painkiller abuse, only one-third asks about a family history of addiction, the survey found. When signs of abuse are uncovered, only 5 percent offer direct help and only 38 percent refer these patients for treatment elsewhere.

    The survey found 74 percent of doctors said they believe pain relief is best achieved through one of two opioids: morphine or oxycodone. The National Safety Council said over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are more effective in providing short-term pain relief.

    Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines that recommend primary care providers avoid prescribing opioid painkillers for patients with chronic pain. The risks from opioids greatly outweigh the benefits for most people, the CDC says.

    Primary care providers write nearly half of all opioid prescriptions, according to the CDC. The new guidelines are designed for primary care doctors who treat adult patients for chronic pain in outpatient settings. They are not meant for guiding treatment of patients in active cancer treatment, palliative care, or end-of-life care, the agency said.

    Doctors who determine that opioid painkillers are needed should prescribe the lowest possible dose for the shortest amount of time, the guidelines state.


    March 2016