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Friday, April 17, 2015

Patient Misperceptions About Opioid Dependence

When people go to the emergency room complaining of pain the most common response by physicians is to give them something for the pain. In most cases the patient takes the prescription and does not think much of it, even if the drug has a high potential for dependence and/or addiction.

New research has found that patients want to be given more information about their pain management options, Science Daily reports.

While it goes without saying that prescription opioids are the most effective analgesics available, the researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that emergency room patients have misperceptions about opioid dependence and expressed a desire for better communication from physicians.

Using semi-structured open-ended telephone interviews with 23 patients discharged from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, according to the article, the researchers found that the main themes of the interviews included opioid dependence, addiction and doctor-patient communication about pain management. For example:

  • A fear of developing dependence or addiction.
  • Worries about following prescribed dosing preventing the possibility of addiction.
  • Relying on media and other individuals as a source of information about opioids.
  • Awareness of physicians' need to balance patients' pain management needs and safe opioid prescribing guidelines.
"It was interesting to find that patients believe that taking an opioid as prescribed prevents the possibility of addiction, but also that patients are learning about opioids from television and from friends and acquaintances -- not healthcare providers," said senior author Zachary F. Meisel, MD, MPH, MS, assistant professor and attending physician in the department of Emergency Medicine, who oversaw the study led by Robert J. Smith, BS, a medical student at Penn. "There's clearly a significant need for emergency departments to improve education around the risks of opioid misuse."

The study was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

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