Doctors’ pain pill prescribing habits at odds with current guidelines

Research we're watching

Published: April, 2020

Doctors have been overprescribing opioids for chronic musculoskeletal pain, according to a December 2019 study in The Journal of Pain. Researchers looking at data from a survey conducted between 2007 and 2015 found that doctors more often prescribed pills, either non-opioid or opioid, rather than physical therapy, counseling, or other nondrug interventions — a practice that is directly at odds with what experts now recommend, including those in the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. At their first visit with the doctor, people were most often prescribed non-opioid painkillers (40.2%) or opioids (21.5%), followed by counseling, nonpharmacological treatments, and physical therapy. Study authors say this shows there is room for improvement through education. However, it's worth noting that the time period studied (2007 through 2015) preceded much of the recent work and advocacy aimed at reducing prescriptions of opioids.

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