More doctors have cut back or stopped prescribing opioids, survey finds

More doctors say they have reduced the number of opioid prescriptions they write or have stopped prescribing opioids at all, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by physician social network SERMO for BuzzFeed News, found that in more doctors have reduced opioid prescribing in the past two years.

Some 69% of the more than 3,000 doctors who responded to the survey said they reduced their opioid prescribing or stopped prescribing the painkillers. That compares to 60% of doctors who responded to a similar survey in 2016. Some 12% of respondents said they stopped prescribing the drugs at all, an increase from 8% in 2016.

Other survey findings include the following:

  • The main reasons doctors (22%) gave for cutting back on prescriptions were “too many hassles and risks involved” and “improved understanding of the risks of opioids.” 
  • One-third of doctors (34%) said chronic pain patients have been hurt by the reduction.

The survey is in line with a report released in April from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science that found in 2017 the U.S. saw the largest drop in opioid prescriptions in 25 years. The volume of prescription opioids written by U.S. doctors decreased by 12% in 2017, according to the report.

Prescription opioid volume increased annually since 1992, before peaking in 2011, the report said. From 2012 to 2016, opioid prescribing decreased by about 4% each year due to stricter regulations and prescribing guidelines.

Despite all the efforts to curb the opioid epidemic, overdose deaths are still on the rise across the country, according to a report released in March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.