HealthDay News — Nine out of 10 primary care doctors in the United States are concerned about prescription drug abuse in their communities, and nearly 50% said they were less likely to prescribe opioids compared to one year ago, according to a research letter published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers surveyed 580 internists, family doctors, and general practitioners across the country. They found that 85% of doctors believe that opioids are overused in clinical practice. Around half of those surveyed said they were “very concerned” about risks such as addiction, death, and traffic crashes associated with opioid overuse.

Almost two-thirds of the doctors believe that tolerance to the drugs occurs often. Just over half believe that physical dependence is a common problem. And, the doctors said these issues can happen even when these prescription drugs are used as directed to treat chronic pain. But, despite their concerns, 88% of doctors were confident in their own ability to prescribe the drugs appropriately. In addition, 45% reported being less likely to prescribe opioids compared with a year ago.

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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,” researcher G. Caleb Alexander, MD, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a Hopkins news release. “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.”


Hwang CS et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2014; doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6520.