99% percent of primary care physicians overprescribe addictive painkillers

Nearly all — 99 percent — of primary care physicians give patients prescriptions for potentially addictive opioid painkillers for longer than the three-day period recommended by the CDC, National Safety Council survey results show, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Physicians often prescribe the drugs instead of nonaddictive options that some research suggests is more effective for managing pain, and they routinely prescribe opioids for conditions deemed inappropriate by medical organization such as the AmericanAcademy of Neurology. The benefits of using opioids to treat pain for conditions like headache, fibromyalgia or lower back pain are outweighed by the risk of addiction or death.

"Studies have shown that once we get beyond seven days of these opiate prescriptions for acute pain, the outcomes become much worse," Donald Teater, MD, medical adviser for NSC, told the Chicago Tribune. "They get on these for a long time and have a hard time getting off them."

In its new guidance for opioid prescription released last week, the CDC recommended that opioids generally be reserved for cancer, palliative and end-of-life care. For short-term pain, prescriptions should be limited to three days. However, of the 201 internists and family medicine physicians surveyed by NSC, nearly all provide prescriptions for far longer periods, and about one in five prescribed opioids for 30 days, according to the report.

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