Survey reveals knowledge gap on opioid misuse


Consumers and healthcare professionals (HCPs) share concerns about prescription opioid misuse, but fewer than three in five patients and HCPs discuss safe storage and disposal of the medications, according to a survey.

The survey, conducted by health information providers WebMD and Medscape, is part of a White House initiative calling on public and private organizations, including WebMD and Medscape, to address the issue of prescription drug abuse and heroin use. 

The survey found that 88 percent of healthcare professionals prescribe opioids, mirroring national statistics showing the number of prescriptions in the US skyrocketing from 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013.   

This increase, coupled with the survey's finding that 42 percent of patients who have used an opioid in the past three years say they store their leftover opioids for future use, points toward the development of a national inventory of prescription pain medications in America's medicine cabinets. 

With the drugs on hand, there is concern that they may be shared or used for purposes other than prescribed. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the number of people dying from prescription opioid pain reliever overdoses has more than tripled in the past 30 years.    

The new survey data reveals both knowledge gaps and discrepancies, including a disconnect in patient-physician communication about addiction risks, and a lack of patient awareness about appropriate storage and disposal.

Conducted between November and December, the survey obtained responses from 1,887 consumers who visited the desktop or mobile WebMD site, and 1,513 US clinicians who are currently active on Medscape, including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Dr Michael Smith, medical director and chief medical editor, WebMD, said: "With opioid prescriptions and overdose-related deaths affecting Americans at alarming rates, understanding patient and physician perceptions of risk and appropriate use play an important role in helping to reduce misuse, addiction and diversion.

“Healthcare professionals need to revisit their approach to discussing addiction risks and proper storage and disposal with patients to ensure guidance is clear; similarly, patients need to be aware of all of the potential risks associated with these powerful drugs, including abuse, addiction, and having the drugs fall into the wrong hands." 

WebMD, Medscape, White House Initiative, NIDA, US, Opioid Misuse