Many Primary Care Doctors Lack Understanding of Opioid Abuse

As NJ’s legislature considers a bill that would require prescribers to have a discussion with their patients about the potential for dependency with certain opiates, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recent study demonstrates that many primary care physicians have a misconception about opioid abuse. 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 following story below was recently published in the Clinical Journal of Pain was featured in Join Together. If you are not yet subscribed to our weekly blog on trending topics in substance abuse prevention, please take a moment to register here.


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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.


Bharathi Nayak M.D.
Posted 7/8/2015 5:26 PM

I am a Neurologist . I see a significant number of pts who have been prescribed various addictive pain killers including opioids, gabapentin, Lyrica & many more long term with no justifiable Dx. I believe this has been done to keep pts visiting their offices regularly for financial gain. Most of these pts are so addicted & brain washed about the use of these drugs, they resist being tapered off." Pain Management" Doctors are responsible for addiction in senior citizens which is horrible to watch. I am referring to Pts. who have no terminal/malignancy DX.

Janine Keblesh
Posted 7/8/2015 5:44 PM

My sister's dr. Prescribed her 180 oxycodon with 5 refills then when that didn't work for her back pain it led to heroine. 5 months later she passed away in January of this year from a heroine overdose. I thought thsee drugs were state regulated. I have to show ID when I get a box of generic Sudafed which I agree with. I thought Dr's could not give refills on controlled substances. 180 pills in one month I think is alot! Plus the refills. Very very devastating.

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