Are doctors pressured to prescribe opiate drugs?

When it comes to opiate drugs, like morphine, there is a bitter debate between patients who are in chronic pain, and the doctors who are vilified for under or over-prescribing these medications.

But there are some other subtle influences that push doctors to prescribe these drugs, in some cases inappropriately. An ER physician talks about the issue, saying, “when dealing with a patient who is in pain, or appears to be, it can be impossible to sort out when a patient needs opiates for legitimate reasons, and when it is merely feeding a long term addiction. We are trained to provide comfort and relief from suffering to our patients, and we generally will err on the side of treating pain, rather than withholding addictive medications.”

There is also the pressure to provide “patient satisfaction,” and indeed, low scores in this area can place a doctor’s job in jeopardy. Taking a stand against those who inappropriately request opiates will result in low patient satisfaction scores, and “will often times result in arguments, profanity, and calls and letters to administration.”

What’s the answer? Perhaps a little less reliance on these scores, since a good patient satisfaction score is not necessarily correlated with proper medicine.


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