(HealthDay News) — When doctors in the United States prescribe opioids for their patients, 99% of them hand out prescriptions that exceed the federally recommended 3-day dosage limit, new research suggests.

In the results of a survey of 200 doctors conducted by the National Safety Council, nearly one-quarter (23%) gave out month-long dosages. And while 84% of doctors screen for signs of prior opioid abuse, just one-third ask about a family history of addiction. Only 5% offer direct help to patients when signs of abuse are uncovered, and less than 40% refer such patients for treatment elsewhere.

Roughly three-quarters of doctors (74%) indicated that they believe pain relief is best achieved by offering patients 1 of 2 opioids: morphine or oxycodone (Oxycontin). But experts from the safety council noted that over-the-counter pain relievers (including ibuprofen and acetaminophen) are more effective at providing short-term pain relief. Misinformation particularly seems to be at play when it comes to addressing back pain and dental pain. While 71 and 55% of doctors say they prescribe opioids for back pain and dental pain, respectively, these drugs are not considered the ideal treatment for either condition, according to the safety council.

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“Opioids do not kill pain. They kill people,” Donald Teater, MD, a medical advisor at the National Safety Council, said in a Council news release. “Doctors are well-intentioned and want to help their patients, but these findings are further proof that we need more education and training if we want to treat pain most effectively.”


  1. NSC Poll: 99% of Doctors Prescribe Highly-addictive Opioids Longer than CDC Recommends. National Safety Council. March 24, 2016.