Ninety percent of U.S. primary care physicians worry about narcotic misuse in their communities, and almost half say they are less likely to prescribe such medicine than they were a year ago, according to a new JAMA Internal Medicine report.
According to federal officials, prescription drug misuse is the most rapidly growing drug problem in nation. More than 38,000 people died from prescription narcotic overdoses in 2010.
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For the report, researchers surveyed 580 general practitioners, family doctors, and internists and found that 85% think narcotic painkillers are used too frequently in clinical practice. They also found that:
- About half of doctors reported being "very concerned" about traffic crash, death, and addition risks associated with opioid painkiller abuse;
- Two-thirds said they believe tolerance to the drugs is common—even when the drugs are used as directed; and
- Just over half said they think dependence is a prevalent issue—even when patients use the drugs as directed.
However, almost nine out of 10 physicians said their own prescribing habits are appropriate.
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"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," says study leader Caleb Alexander, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-director of the school's Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness.
To continue the progress, Alexander says doctors and patients must explore non-narcotic pain treatments, such as acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, and other types of pain drugs.
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"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," Alexander says (Preidt, HealthDay, 12/8).
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