What physicians think about the opioid crisis: 5 survey takeaways

CDC data indicates the rate of fatal opioid overdoses in the U.S. has quadrupled since 2000 — and many physicians believe the problem comes from initiatives to make pain the "fifth vital sign," according to a survey from HealthTap.

The survey polled 1,450 U.S. licensed physicians and their opinions on the opioid epidemic. Most said the problem is mulitfactorial and will require a multifactorial response. Here are the top factors physicians saw as causing the opioid epidemic and how they suggest solving it, based on the HealthTap survey.

  • Physicians said the two leading causes of the epidemic are easy access to illegal opioids (72 percent) and overprescribing by physicians (63 percent).
  • More than half of physicians (56 percent) feel physicians who prescribe narcotics need additional training, and of those who felt training was required, most (70 percent) said online training is the preferred format.
  • Many physicians responded in the comments section that grading physicians on patient satisfaction surveys or quality of care metrics has contributed to the rise in opioid prescriptions, the availability of unused pain pills and the rise in opioid addiction.
  • More than 100 physicians said in the comments section of the survey that patients expectations are too high, and many expect to never experience pain, even after an operation.
  • Most respondents felt patients with chronic pain should be treated with non-narcotic, alternative treatments, but these are frequently not covered by insurance.


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