A simple question and a conversation could be key to fight opioid abuse

Almost half the patients taking pain medication in the past year were not asked one vital question
February 16, 2016 | By Matt Kuhrt
The opioid addiction crisis has led to increased pressure on primary care practices to look closely at the way they communicate with and care for afflicted patients. A new survey from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation suggests primary care doctors could do more to stem addiction problems earlier in the cycle, simply by asking the right questions before prescribing pain medication.
As more and more primary care physicians find themselves on the front linesdealing with opioid addicts, they have also discovered that, in many cases, they unwittingly contributed to the problem by prescribing them in the first place, according to previous reporting by FiercePracticeManagement.
The biggest risk factor for addicts is “a past personal or family history of issues with alcohol and/or other drugs,” says Marvin D. Seppala, M.D., chief medical officer at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. It’s telling, then, that his organization’s survey found that 46 percent of the time patients indicated their doctors failed to ask about past problems before writing their prescriptions for opioid painkillers.
When dispensing opioids, Seppala suggests doctors need to keep in mind the stigma surrounding addiction and take the time to have a medical conversation with patients about the potential risks. As simple as this step may seem, 80 percent of the patients surveyed indicated their doctors prescribed opioid pain medication without their requesting it. In six of 10 cases, doctors didn’t even bother to tell patients the painkillers could be addictive.
Other survey findings suggest a conversation about what to do with leftover pills would be worthwhile, since 63 percent of patients reported keeping them around, and data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate 54 percent of those using pain pills got them from a friend or relative for free.
To learn more:
– check out the survey results