Certain physician beliefs may impede willingness to engage with patients who misuse opioids

1. This quantitative study of physicians found that physicians who carry certain beliefs about blame for and vulnerability to opioid misuse and addiction may contribute to decreased willingness to help these patients.

2. Certain specialties, including internal medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine and addictions medicine, may be more willing to work with patients who misuse opioids.

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Fair)

Effectively combatting the opioid crisis requires physicians who are willing to work with patients who misuse opioids. However, many providers are not specifically trained in this practice or may be unwilling to work with this population for personal reasons. It is important to examine physician attitude towards these patients, as previous studies have been limited in highlighting barriers to care and access to treatment in patients who misuse opioids.

This quantitative study analyzed responses from 333 Ohio board-certified physicians whose practice had been “reshaped by the pandemic” to provide a more complete overview of physician attitude towards these patients. Physicians who were retired, had changed careers, or had outdated records were excluded. Primary outcomes used a cross-sectional survey to assess physicians perceptions on personal invulnerability to opioid misuse, healthcare provider blame for the opioid crisis, and controllability of opioid misuse and addiction.

This study found that physicians who were less willing to treat patients who misuse opioids were more likely to have three major beliefs: they were more likely to think that opioid addiction was controllable, that they themselves would not be vulnerable to opioid misuse and addiction, and that prescribers were not to blame for the opioid crisis. Furthermore, physicians working in internal medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine, and addictions medicine were more willing to work with patients who misused opioids. Limitations of this study include possible limited generalizability because the analysis was performed with a survey study using a convenience sample and relatively small sample size. Nonetheless, this study’s findings were significant in suggesting there was a negative association between physicians who distance themselves from people who misuse opioids and treatment willingness.

Click to read the study in Addiction Science & Clinical Practice

Image: PD

©2021 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved. No works may be reproduced without expressed written consent from 2 Minute Medicine, Inc. Inquire about licensing here. No article should be construed as medical advice and is not intended as such by the authors or by 2 Minute Medicine, Inc.