Many Primary Care Doctors Lack Understanding of Opioid Abuse: Survey

doctor writing prescription 12-18-14

Many primary care physicians have misconceptions about opioid abuse, a new survey finds. Almost half of internists, family physicians and general practitioners incorrectly believe that abuse-deterrent pills are less addictive than standard opioid painkillers, according to the survey.

The researchers, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, say this lack of understanding may be contributing to the problem of prescription drug abuse and addiction, PsychCentral reports.

“Physicians and patients may mistakenly view these medicines as safe in one form and dangerous in another, but these products are addictive no matter how you take them,” study leader G. Caleb Alexander, MD, said in a news release. “If doctors and patients fail to understand this, they may believe opioids are safer than is actually the case and prescribe them more readily than they should.”

The survey also found that one-third of the physicians mistakenly thought most prescription drug abuse occurs by means other than swallowing pills as intended. According to several studies, the most common way in which prescription drugs are abused is by ingestion, followed by snorting and injection, the article notes.

“Doctors continue to overestimate the effectiveness of prescription pain medications and underestimate their risks, and that’s why we are facing such a public health crisis,” Alexander said.

Almost 90 percent of doctors said they strongly support requiring patients to receive opioids from a single prescriber and/or pharmacy to cut down on “doctor shopping.” More than half said they strongly support the use of urine testing for chronic opioid users, to ensure they are taking their medication and not diverting it, and to make sure they are not taking drugs they have not been prescribed.

The results of the survey, which included a nationally representative sample of 1,000 primary care physicians, are published in the Clinical Journal of Pain.

    User Picture


    June 25, 2015 at 2:00 PM

    Doctors are caught in a tough spot because many of their patients really need the medication and they don’t want to have to become private detectives to figure out if they are using them ‘correctly’. In fact, the recent crackdowns on prescriptions have backfired to some extent as chronic pain patients give up on themselves knowing how hard it will be to get the relief they need. I would add that we need not always believe the claim of ‘addiction’ from someone who stole pills (or the money for them) just to get high, and so doctors are justifiably skeptical about treating such people.

Leave a Comment

Please leave a comment below to contribute to the discussion. If you have a specific question, please contact a Parent Specialist, who will provide you with one-on-one help.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *