Nine out of 10 primary care doctors in the United States are concerned about prescription drug abuse in their communities, and nearly half of the physicians surveyed said they were less likely to prescribe opioid medications than they were a year ago, according to a research letter published online Dec. 8 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Researchers surveyed 580 internists, family doctors, and general practitioners across the country. They found that 85 percent of doctors believe that opioid medications are overused in clinical practice. Around half of those surveyed said they were "very concerned" about risks such as addiction, death, and traffic crashes associated with opioid overuse.
Almost two-thirds of the doctors believe that tolerance to the drugs occurs often. Just over half believe that physical dependence is a common problem. The doctors said these issues can happen even when these prescription drugs are used as directed to treat chronic pain. But, despite their concerns, 88 percent of doctors were confident in their own ability to prescribe the drugs appropriately. In addition, 45 percent reported being less likely to prescribe opioid medications compared with a year ago.
"Our findings suggest that primary care providers have become aware of the scope of the prescription opioid crisis and are responding in ways that are important, including reducing their over-reliance on these medicines," study leader G. Caleb Alexander, M.D., an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a Hopkins news release. "The health care community has long been part of the problem, and now they appear to be part of the solution to this complex epidemic."
We are starting to see a change in the way that people look at opioid medications. It was only a matter of time before physicians started to look at the ways they used to prescribe these powerful narcotics before 1995. There were very good reasons that doctors did not prescribe these medications so openly and liberally. They are extremely dangerous medications even when they are taken as prescribed. Opioid medications cause a dependency over time that can not be stopped. The body will build a tolerance to these medications needing a higher dose to remedy the pain. Over time the tolerance will continue to grow and the body will need the medication just to be able to function normally. For patients who take their medications as prescribed and never missed a dose or abused their medications are horrified when they realize how dependent they are on these medications.
With more doctors turning to other forms of pain relief before writing prescriptions for opioid medications, more patients will never experience the horror of what these drugs can do to their minds and body. If the doctor has tried all other options and opioid medications are the last resort to helping the patient with their pain, an extensive educational period must take place so the patient is fully aware of what they will be experiencing and that they may be on these medications or some form of it for the rest of their life.