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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Physicians Less Likely to Prescribe Narcotic Painkillers

Prescription narcotics are responsible for a large percentage of drug overdose deaths that occur every year in the United States. Despite a number of efforts to curb the problem, the rate of opioid dependence in this country is nothing short of a crisis.

After years of over-prescribing opioid painkillers, a new survey of primary care physicians nationwide showed that almost half say they are less likely to prescribe narcotic painkillers compared with a year ago. Nine out of 10 primary care doctors are concerned about prescription drug abuse in their communities, according to HealthDay.

“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 Dr. G. Caleb Alexander of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a 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.” 

Dr. Alexander hopes that more doctors and patients consider alternatives to opioid painkillers, including other types of pain relievers, and non-drug treatments such as massage, physical therapy and acupuncture. 

The survey involving 580 family doctors, internists and general practitioners nationwide, showed that 85 percent believe narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, are overused, the article reports. About half of the doctors surveyed said they were "very concerned" about risks such as addiction, death and traffic crashes associated with narcotic painkiller overuse. A number of doctors reported they believe that adverse effects, like tolerance (62 percent) and physical dependence (56 percent) occur often, even when patients use the medications as directed.

It is worth pointing out that while doctors’ have a high level of concern about opioid painkillers, 88 percent reported confidence in their own ability to prescribe opioid drugs appropriately.

The researchers report in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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