Survey of Primary Care Physicians’ Beliefs on Prescription Drug Abuse

A survey of primary care physicians found the vast majority of practicing internists, family physicians and general practitioners consider prescription drug abuse to be a significant problem in their community and most physicians agreed opioids were overused to treat pain, according to a research letter published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Primary care physicians are critical in maximizing the safe use of opioid pain-relieving medications. It is because of this that Catherine S. Hwang, M.S.P.H., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and co-authors wanted to know more about physician beliefs and their self-reported prescribing practices for opioids. The authors conducted a nationally representative mail survey, resulting in 420 respondents.

The survey found that among physicians:

_ 90 percent reported prescription drug abuse to be a “big” or “moderate” problem in their community

_ 85 percent reported opioids are overused in clinical practice

_ 45 percent reported being less likely to prescribe opioids compared with a year ago

“Our investigation suggests that most primary care physicians are aware of many risks of opioids and many have decreased their prescribing of these products during the past 12 months,” the research letter concludes.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online December 8, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6520.