Opioid Education and Prescribing Practices

J Am Board Fam Med. Jul-Aug 2021;34(4):802-807. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2021.04.200610.


Background: Lack of training among health care providers (HCPs) to safely prescribe opioids is a contributing factor to the opioid crisis. Training and other resources have been developed to educate providers about safe and appropriate opioid prescribing practices.

Method: The national survey was conducted with 2000 HCPs representing primary care physicians (PCPs), including family practice, general practice, and internal medicine; specialists (SPs); physician assistants (PAs); and nurse practitioners (NPs), a mix of primary care and specialists. This survey examined exposure to opioid educational information and opioid prescribing.

Results: PCPs reported prescribing opioids for chronic pain to significantly more patients compared with other HCP groups. PCPs (89.8%) and NPs (85.5%) reported significantly greater exposure to opioid educational information compared with both SPs (71.9%) and PAs (78.8%). Overall, HCPs had limited knowledge about abuse-deterrent formulations, but PCPs had greater knowledge than other groups. HCPs had an increased likelihood of prescribing opioids to fewer patients in the last 3 months relative to the prior 12 months if they worked in a state or county clinic vs a solo or group practice type (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.97; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.12-3.49) and were exposed to more opioid educational information during the last 12 months (AOR = 1.19; 95% CI, 1.06-1.32).

Discussion: HCPs' exposure to opioid educational information was associated with less opioid prescribing for chronic pain. Findings indicated a difference in exposure and knowledge gaps across provider groups. More information is needed on the content of opioid educational information provided to HCPs.

Keywords: Abuse-Deterrent Formulations; Health Personnel; Healthcare Providers; Opioid Education; Opioids; Physician's Practice Patterns; Prescribers; Primary Care Physicians; Primary Health Care; Surveys and Questionnaires.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid*
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*


  • Analgesics, Opioid