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Beliefs and attitudes about prescribing opioids among healthcare providers seeking continuing medical education

W. Michael Hooten, MD, Barbara K. Bruce, PhD


Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the beliefs and attitudes of healthcare providers about prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
Setting: The setting was a continuing medical education conference that was specifically designed to deliver content about chronic pain and prescription opioids to providers without specialty expertise in pain medicine.
Participants: Conference attendees with prescribing privileges were eligible to participate, including physicians, physician assistants, and advance practice nurses.
Intervention: Study participants completed a questionnaire using an electronic response system.
Main outcome measures: Study participants completed a validated questionnaire that was specifically developed to measure the beliefs and attitudes of healthcare providers about prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
Results: The questionnaire was completed by 128 healthcare providers. The majority (58 percent) indicated that they were “likely” to prescribe opioids for chronic pain. A significant proportion of respondents had favorable beliefs and attitudes toward improvements in pain (p < 0.001) and quality of life (p < 0.001) attributed to prescribing opioids. However, a significant proportion had negative beliefs and attitudes about medication abuse (p < 0.001) and addiction (p < 0.001). Respondents also indicated that prescribing opioids could significantly increase the complexity of patient care and could unfavorably impact several administrative aspects of clinical practice.
Conclusions: The beliefs and attitudes identified in this study highlight important educational gaps that exist among healthcare providers about prescribing opioids. Knowledge of these educational gaps could build the capacity of medical educators to develop targeted educational materials that could improve the opioid prescribing practices of healthcare providers.


prescription opioid, chronic pain, continuing medical education, attitudes and beliefs, healthcare providers

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