Public Release: 

Survey of primary care physicians' beliefs on prescription drug abuse

The JAMA Network Journals

A survey of primary care physicians found the vast majority of practicing internists, family physicians and general practitioners consider prescription drug abuse to be a significant problem in their community and most physicians agreed opioids were overused to treat pain, according to a research letter published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

Primary care physicians are critical in maximizing the safe use of opioid pain-relieving medications. It is because of this that Catherine S. Hwang, M.S.P.H., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and co-authors wanted to know more about physician beliefs and their self-reported prescribing practices for opioids. The authors conducted a nationally representative mail survey, resulting in 420 respondents.

The survey found that among physicians:

  • 90 percent reported prescription drug abuse to be a "big" or "moderate" problem in their community
  • 85 percent reported opioids are overused in clinical practice
  • 45 percent reported being less likely to prescribe opioids compared with a year ago

"Our investigation suggests that most primary care physicians are aware of many risks of opioids and many have decreased their prescribing of these products during the past 12 months," the research letter concludes.


(JAMA Intern Med. Published online December 8, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6520. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor's Note: Authors made conflict of interest disclosures. This work was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Public Health Law Research Program and the Lipitz Public Health Policy Fund Award from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Media Advisory: To contact corresponding author G. Caleb Alexander, M.D., M.S., call Stephanie Desmon at 410-955-7619 or email

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