According to a new nationwide online survey, more than 50% of doctors in America are cutting back on opioid prescriptions and nearly 10% have stopped prescribing them altogether. The survey also indicates that some doctors are concerned about the impact on those suffering from chronic pain. More than 30% of the responding physicians said that the reduction in opioid prescriptions has hurt their chronic pain patients.
The survey, which was recently conducted for The Boston Globe by the SERMO physicians social network, gives insight into the impact of changes in prescribing practices that have occurred in the wake of new state and federal regulations.
The survey indicated two primary reasons that physicians are cutting back on prescribing opioids: (1) the risks and hassles involved in prescribing opioids and (2) they not have a better understanding of the hazards associated with opioids.
But some physicians worry about the impact of reduced prescribing on their patients with chronic pain. Opioids can often be a poor choice for the long-term treatment of chronic pain, but they also can work for some patients who take recommended doses and rely on them to function on a daily basis.
“In many cases, doctors are walking away completely. They don’t even want to see patients in chronic pain,” said Cindy Steinberg, the policy council chairwoman for the Massachusetts Pain Initiative , a nonprofit concerned with improving the lives of people in pain. She recommends that doctors who cut back on opioid prescriptions should “partner with your patients and stay with them to help find other options.”
“It’s frightening,” Steinberg said, “to be living in that kind of pain and not have help.”