Physicians Pressured to Prescribe Pain Pills

Opioid abuse is a real problem in this country, and lately, there has been a lot of finger pointing at doctors.

Throughout the last ten years, many issues have helped contribute to the abuse of opioid painkillers. One such factor is that doctors who are already overworked, may feel it’s easier to issue a painkiller prescription than take the necessary time to administer addiction therapy.

According to an article featured at Med Page Today, another problem is the declining reimbursements for such treatment.

Patients these days are also a lot less tolerant of pain than in the past, possibly because of the widespread availability of various pain medications. Those facing chronic pain are adding another layer of pressure to doctors. And, per Dr. Anna Lembke of Stanford University, this added pressure may lead doctors to prescribe medication to someone they know is probably abusing it.

In addition, doctors who don’t issue prescription pills for someone pleading in pain could be viewed as uncompassionate or uncaring. They are essentially at the mercy of the patient when it comes to ratings and customer satisfaction surveys.

Standing firm and telling a patient no when it is believed that pain killers are not necessary or are likely to be abused could result in negative backlash in the form of poor service scores. Lembke adds that in some hospitals and clinics, patient surveys are tied to doctors’ job security and compensation.

Compounding the problem is the fact that treatment of pain pays, while spending the necessary time to invest in a patient’s addiction therapy does not. Because of diminishing reimbursements, many psychiatrists are even shying away from taking insurance.

According to Lemke, the answer lies in education. She says many doctors don’t know that there are new billing codes available that permit reimbursements for addiction treatment. She recommends that physicians learn more about addiction through CME courses and says that clinicians should have the ability to review a patient’s drug history through a prescription drug monitoring program prior to issuing controlled substances.

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The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.