Practices, perceptions, and concerns of primary care physicians about opioid dependence associated with the treatment of chronic pain

Subst Abus. 2012;33(2):103-13. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2011.630944.


When prescribing opioids to treat chronic pain, physicians face the dilemma of balancing effective pain management while avoiding iatrogenic opioid addiction. Through mailed surveys, the current study assessed concerns, perceptions, and practices of primary care physicians related to this dilemma. Of the 35 (43%) physicians that replied, 32 (91.4%) reported to prescribe opioids for pain. Twenty-six (81.3%) physicians mentioned that "legitimate pain" was the main reason why most patients who are opioid dependent begin using opioids. Most physicians (71.5%) rated their knowledge/comfort of treatment/management of opioid dependence as being low. Although these physicians believed training is essential to learning about the risks involved with chronic pain and opioid dependence, many of these physicians evaluated their own medical training in these areas as unsatisfactory. Training programs may better equip primary care physicians when addressing the treatment of chronic pain and addiction to opioids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Data Collection
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / prevention & control
  • Middle Aged
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / etiology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Pain Management / adverse effects*
  • Perception
  • Physicians, Primary Care / statistics & numerical data*


  • Analgesics, Opioid