Physician attitudes toward opioid prescribing for patients with persistent noncancer pain

Clin J Pain. 2007 Nov-Dec;23(9):799-803. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3181565cf1.


Objectives: Physicians frequently express dissatisfaction about caring for patients with chronic pain and frequently report that inadequate training and concern about addiction are impediments to prescribing opioids. Elderly patients with chronic pain may be at increased risk of experiencing uncontrolled pain and this patient population is increasingly being cared for by geriatricians rather than internists. We sought to determine if there is a differential impact on internists and geriatricians of the factors that adversely affect attitudes toward opioid prescribing.

Methods: Anonymous survey of geriatric and internal medicine physicians at a large urban academic medical center about their beliefs and behaviors regarding opioid prescribing.

Results: One hundred thirty-two of 187 physicians completed the survey for an overall response rate of 71%. Controlling for level of training, internists were more likely to be concerned about illegal diversion (adjusted odds ratio=10.0, P=0.004), were more concerned about causing addiction (38% vs. 0%, P<0.001), and were more likely to be concerned about their inability to prescribe the correct opioid dose (adjusted odds ratio=11.1, P=0.020).

Discussion: Factors shown to have an adverse affect on opioid prescribing disproportionately impact on the attitudes of internists compared with geriatricians. Further research is needed to determine if there is also a differential impact on how internists care for their elderly patients with chronic pain.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / supply & distribution*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pain, Intractable / drug therapy
  • Pain, Intractable / epidemiology
  • Pain, Intractable / etiology
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Analgesics, Opioid