The fact that opioid drugs have a potential for abuse should be on a prescribing physician’s radar when issuing prescriptions for medications. Unfortunately, too few primary care physicians pay the right amount of attention to patients who are taking this drug.
This fact was determined in a new study by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and featured in a recent Science Daily release. The study showed the doctors were falling short on their attention to the drugs, despite the potential for addiction, abuse and overdose.
The study found that lax monitoring was taking place, even for those patients with a high risk for opioid abuse or misuse. This was even true among patients with a history of drug abuse or dependence. In 2009, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 2.2 million Americans used pain relievers for non-medical reasons for the first time.
According to Joanna Starrels, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine at Einstein and lead author on the research, the study highlights a missed opportunity to indentify and reduce the misuse of prescribed opioids in primary care settings. Starrels believes that the lack of increased precautions for high-risk patients signifies there is a need for a standardized approach to monitoring.
In a study of more than 1,600 primary care patients, only 8 percent were found to have undergone any urine drug testing. Even those in the high-risk category were only checked 24 percent of the time. Only half of the patients were seen in the office regularly and those at higher risk were more likely to receive multiple early refills.