Illegal opioids, overprescribing are major causes of epidemic, doctors survey finds

When asked what they think is the reason behind the country's opioid epidemic, physicians in a recent survey cited two leading causes: easy access to illegal opioids and overprescribing by physicians.

The survey by HealthTap, a global health practice, polled 1,450 U.S. doctors about the causes of and solutions to the opioid crisis, in which the rate of fatal opioid overdoses has quadrupled since 2000. More than 70 percent of survey respondents also offered comments and suggestions.

Here are some of the additional findings:

  • Fifty-six percent of physicians said additional training is needed for doctors who prescribe narcotics. In their comments, they said physicians need additional information, guidance and training on the best ways to manage patients with pain or inappropriate opioid use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a recommendation from an advisory panel to make training mandatory for doctors who prescribe opioids, a move that is opposed by some physician groups.
  • Of those who favored training, 70 percent said online training is the preferred format for a mandated education program.
  • Many physicians commented that grading physicians on patient satisfaction surveys or quality of care metrics has contributed to increased opioid prescribing.
  • Others said that the initiative to make pain the "fifth vital sign" has contributed to the problem.
  • More than 100 physicians said patient expectations are too high when it comes to pain management and many expect never to experience pain, even after surgery.
  • Most respondents said doctors should prescribe non-narcotic, alternative treatments to patients with chronic pain, but noted that the alternatives are frequently not covered by insurance.
  • Doctors raised concerns that a backlash against opioid use would harm patients who need and benefit from opioid therapy.
  • Physicians said solutions to the opioid problem with require a multidisciplinary approach.

.To learn more:
- read the survey announcement
- find the full survey results