Physician Opioid Prescribing Exceeds CDC Recommendations

Prescription Drug Use Up
Prescription Drug Use Up
A survey conducted by the National Safety Council revealed troubling opioid prescribing habits.

HealthDay News –  A report from the National Safety Council suggests that an overwhelming majority of doctors prescribe opioids for longer than the 3 days recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

In the results of a survey of 200 doctors, nearly one-quarter (23%) gave out month-long dosages. And while 84% of doctors screen for signs of prior opioid abuse, just one-third ask about a family history of addiction. Only 5% offer direct help to patients when signs of abuse are uncovered, and less than 40% refer such patients for treatment elsewhere.

Roughly three-quarters of doctors (74%) indicated that they believe pain relief is best achieved by offering patients one of two opioids: morphine or oxycodone. But experts from the safety council noted that over-the-counter pain relievers (including ibuprofen and acetaminophen) are more effective at providing short-term pain relief.

Misinformation particularly seems to be at play when it comes to addressing back pain and dental pain. While 71% and 55% of doctors say they prescribe opioids for back pain and dental pain, respectively, these drugs are not considered the ideal treatment for either condition, according to the safety council.

Summary and Clinical Applicability

In this survey 99% of doctors reported having seen opioid-seeking behaviors in patients, but only 38% referred those patients to treatment. 

“Opioids do not kill pain. They kill people,” Donald Teater, MD, a medical advisor at the National Safety Council, said in a Council news release. “Doctors are well-intentioned and want to help their patients, but these findings are further proof that we need more education and training if we want to treat pain most effectively.” 


Teater D on behalf of the Prescription Drug Overdose Initiatives National Safety Council.  “Prescriber attitudes and behavior related to prescription opioid pain medication”. Presentation published Online March 24, 2016.  Accessed March 25, 2016. Source Code